Business owners lament drop in Boracay tourist arrivals
ILOILO CITY—Business owners on Boracay Island have raised concerns over what they consider a decline in tourist arrivals in the world-famous destination in Malay town, Aklan.
While data from the Malay Tourism Office would show otherwise, business owners on the resort island believed the number of tourists, particularly those coming from South Korea, China and Taiwan, was down.
Gil delos Santos, a Boracay resident who owns a small resort, said they were feeling an unusual crunch in the tourism industry since the end of summer, with the micro, small and medium enterprises as the most affected sector.
They believed that many foreign tourists have been shifting to other emerging destinations in the country, particularly Bohol province and Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte.
Citing data from the Bohol provincial tourism office, travel publication TTG Asia said Bohol had already welcomed 62,098 tourists from South Korea from January to Aug. 9 this year.
The number was more than the 50,313 tourists welcomed by Boracay in 2022 based on data from the Department of Tourism (DOT). This was the highest number of foreign arrivals in Boracay last year.
“If we look at the tourist arrival targets of the [Malay] municipal tourism office, we wouldn’t see a problem because the projected arrivals seem to be achievable. It looks okay. But the worry of the people has been what will happen next. Tourists … from the Korean market have been declining due to the shift of tourists to Bohol,” said Delos Santos, whose business has been losing up to more than P100,000 every month.
“[A big hotel] has been laying off its employees, or putting them on extended or forced leave and other properties have also been placing [employees on] forced leave because of a decreasing number of tourists,” he added.
Crisanta Marie Rodriguez, DOT Western Visayas regional director, had yet to respond to requests for an interview while the Boracay Foundation Inc. declined to comment, citing a meeting set today.
Local gov’t data
Figures from the Malay tourism office, posted on its Facebook page on Nov. 1, showed that 178,589 tourists visited Boracay in August 2023, 124,491 in September and 139,008 in October.
While there was a decline in September, the same data showed that tourist arrivals on the island were higher compared to the same period last year.
In 2022, records showed 157,338 tourists visited Boracay in August, 122,373 in September and 135,252 in October.
Despite these numbers, business owners and others dependent on local tourism like vendors and electric tricycle operators felt the decline in the number of visitors.
Delos Santos said there were already cheaper options offered by other tourist destinations as well as less stringent requirements upon entry. People in these tourist sites, he said, also treat visitors better at ports of entry, adding that some tourists in Boracay have complained of being victims of scams.
In Boracay, proof of booking at any hotel, resort or other accredited accommodations is required by port authorities before a tourist can buy a boat ticket going to the island.
“The public notion from tourists who have previously gone to Boracay is that it is very expensive here in terms of fees, transportation, tour activities, food and accommodations. This made them decide to go to other places next time because there are cheaper options there,” Delos Santos said.
“Upon arrival at the ports, there are long lines which take a long time. Many of the complaints that we receive almost every day are that personnel [at the ports] were being rude, unwelcoming and unprofessional towards tourists,” he added.
Malay Councilor Alan Palma said the council would hold a hearing on Nov. 15 to look into the concerns of stakeholders, saying he received such reports as early as last month.
Palma said Korean residents in Boracay also noticed that their countrymen were going to Cebu and Bohol, citing the higher frequency of flights to these two areas compared to Kalibo, which also hosts direct flights from Incheon.
“Seeing the beach lines, and talking to porters, e-trike drivers and tour coordinators reveal that arrivals were [down]. The [tourism] frontliners were the first to feel this, and gradually others like hotels also shared the same observations,” he said.