Travellers continue visiting Philippines despite Boracay’s closure

Tourists are opting for other Philippine destinations like Cebu and Bohol; pictured, Sumilon island beach near Oslob, Cebu

The impact of Boracay’s temporary closure is not as widespread as anticipated, with foreign arrivals to the Philippines still increasing and filling up other resort destinations in the country, according to tourism stakeholders interviewed.

Philippine tourism undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr said that despite the island’s closure in late April, foreign visitor arrivals into the country managed to grow slightly by 0.9 per cent in May and by 10.2 per cent to 3.2 million in January-May.

Tourists are opting for other Philippine destinations like Cebu, Palawan and Bohol; pictured, Sumilon island beach near Oslob, Cebu

One notable brights spot is the 43.8 per cent uptick in arrivals from China – displacing the US as destination’s second biggest market after South Korea – and the diversion of tourists to other destinations including Cebu, Bohol and Palawan, Bengzon pointed out in a presentation during the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) general membership meeting.

HSMA chair Margie Munsayac, who is also vice president of sales and marketing of Bluewater Resorts in Cebu and Bohol, said that while the South Koreans and Chinese were affected by Boracay’s closure, many of them rebooked to other destinations like Cebu and Bohol which are currently “enjoying very good occupancy”, including for city hotels.

Amiable Intertours general manager Bernadette de Leon said that as a result of these rebookings, even smaller hotels in aforementioned destinations are “full” and “expensive”. Some foreign tourists were also diverted to destinations in Luzon such as Batanes, Ilocos and Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan.

“Airswift Airlines’ services to Batanes are fully booked. (It is) enjoying a good slice of the foreign market and (capturing the rebookings from) Boracay tourists”, she said.

“While airlines suffered cancellations to Kalibo and Aklan (going to Boracay), they have to add flights to other cities like Tagbilaran in Bohol, Mactan in Cebu and Puerto Princesa in Palawan,” de Leon added.

While Bengzon declined to confirm if Boracay would reopen on October 26 after the six-month rehabilitation, hotels there are already taking measures in preparation of a possible reopening.

The director of sales and marketing at a five-star resort in Boracay told TTG Asia that the hotel is already accepting reservations for late October onwards, subject to confirmation as the date approaches.

De Leon added that resorts in Boracay are hopeful that the island will reopen before Christmas, and some are accepting reservations without finalising the deal until official confirmation of the island’s reopening from the government.

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