Record tourist arrivals in Boracay
ILOILO CITY—Tourists flocked to Boracay, the country’s internationally known tourism destination for its powdery sands and swinging night life, in record numbers last year to breach the 1.5-million target set by the government for arrivals amid persistent concerns for the island’s environment and sustainability, and terrorists’ threats.
“This is historic because this shows the continued international popularity of the island and the successful promotional and marketing campaigns of the government and private sector,” Helen Catalbas, regional director of the Department of Tourism (DOT), told the Inquirer.
DOT data showed that 1,560,106 visitors went to the 1,032-hectare island last year, surpassing the 1.5 million targeted by tourism and local officials, or 5.96-percent higher than the 1,472,352 recorded in 2014.
For the first time, foreigners surpassed local tourists, Catalbas said.
Foreign tourists comprised more than half of the visitors (769,560), while domestic tourists reached 748,017. Overseas Filipinos numbered 42,529.
Koreans remained the top foreign visitors, numbering 292,174, followed by the Chinese (177,926), Taiwanese (57,765), Malaysians (34,970), Americans (25,403), Australians (20,130), Singaporeans (16,446), Saudi Arabians (14,814), British (14,210), and Japanese (12,195).
Catalbas said the inclusion of Malaysia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia among the top 10 foreign markets indicated that new markets had been enhanced.
The spike in tourist arrivals was brought by increased direct international flights (four destinations in South Korea alone), offering new experiences and activities on the island, and more cruise ships arriving for stopovers.
Local government units of Aklan province, including Malay town, which covers Boracay, business groups and the DOT have also been actively sending sales and promotional missions abroad.
Tourism revenue increased by more than P3 billion, from P40.7 billion in 2014 to P43.9 billion last year.
Security measures have been improved amid the uncontrolled influx of Boracay visitors.
“Tourists need to feel and see that they are safe. We are also not taking any chances and have focused on preemptive measures against possible threats,” Catalbas said.
On Dec. 23 last year, the US Embassy released an advisory citing Boracay as among the areas in the country facing an intensified threat from terrorists “due to persistent reports of kidnapping for ransom plots and potential bombings by the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.”
Boracay’s fragile ecosystem and unregulated development have also raised serious concerns, especially due to unfinished drainage and other infrastructure projects.
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