Local tourists sustain Boracay
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — Domestic tourists are back on Boracay Island after more than two years of quarantine and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of local visitors in the resort island in Malay, Aklan, in May reached 193,298, around 96 percent of the total arrivals of 201,368 for the month, records from the municipal tourism office showed.
This was the highest recorded in a month, surpassing the 149,292 visitors recorded in April 2017, a year before the island was closed to tourists for six months from April to October 2018 to undergo rehabilitation.
It was also more than the 135,543 domestic tourists in May 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March the following year.
The total tourist arrivals last month were also the highest during the pandemic, higher than the previous 186,751 in April.
The record-high number of domestic tourists made up for the minimal foreign tourists who visited the island despite the opening of the country to fully vaccinated tourists starting Feb. 10. Foreign tourists in May reached only 4,268, lower than the 4,737 recorded in April.
Before the pandemic, foreign tourists comprised at least half of the total visitors in Boracay at any given time.
Few foreigners visit Boracay due to continued travel restrictions, and limited and expensive flights to the Philippines, according to business owners.
Direct chartered flights from Incheon, South Korea, to Aklan’s capital town of Kalibo are expected on June 17 and June 22. South Korea is among the biggest contributors to international arrivals in Boracay.
Critical to recovery
The entry of more foreign visitors on the island will be critical to the recovery of the island’s economy as they generally stayed longer and spent more, business owners said.
The island’s tourism-dependent economy is still recovering from the 2018 closure and the two years of the pandemic that led many businesses to suspend operations or shut down.
Business operators earlier appealed to the national government to review the mandated carrying capacity of the island and allow more tourists.
They said the limit was set before the start of major rehabilitation activities on the island.
Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III earlier said the carrying capacity of the 1,032-hectare island, set at 19,215 tourists at any given time, would be maintained but would be reviewed in 2023 based on a new study.
The carrying capacity is pegged as the maximum number of tourists that the island’s environment can support in relation to its ecosystem, infrastructure, and population, among others.
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