The Philippine trade is observing a strong pent-up demand for travel to Boracay from January 2019 onwards, but what’s less clear is whether the popular beach destination, which reopened last month after a six-month closure, is ready to cope with the visitor influx.
Alta Briza Resort Boracay is already fully booked from January till March, director of sales and marketing, Teody Espallardo, told TTG Asia.
“Boracay has an appeal of its own. During its six-month closure, tourists were diverted to Cebu and Bohol but they (the two destinations) did not replace Boracay,” Espallardo explained.
Coast Boracay and Blue Marina Resorts general manager, Randy Salvador, said the domestic market currently dominates visits to the island but the foreign market will likely catch up in 1Q2019.
“This quarter we expect South-east Asian nationalities and by early next year, we expect more Europeans, Americans and Australians,” Salvador said.
Still, hotels, resorts and travel agencies are managing tourists’ expectations by informing them beforehand that while Boracay’s beaches and waters have been cleaned up, the main road’s construction is still ongoing. Moreover, transport can be a problem and only 157 hotels out of 500 have been accredited and reopened at press time.
Wholesaler Blue Horizons Travel and Tours (BHTT) disseminated to overseas agents a two-page report* detailing the situation to protect itself from complaints and refunds especially from “sensitive” source markets like Europe, a major one for the company, said senior sales and marketing manager Marjorie Aquino.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jojo Clemente said it’s good that the pent-up demand for Boracay is from January onwards, as this buys the island some time for further rehabilitation before the arrival of more tourists.
Clemente, however, is concerned about the absence of night lights on the beachfront. Lights nailed to trees have since the island’s closure been removed as part of broader environmental rehabilitation efforts.
“Another accident waiting to happen” is the “dangerous” use of a wooden plank for passengers disembarking from boats, Clemente said. Safer options should be provided for visitors to get on and off boats, he demanded.
Espallardo’s concerns are how the authorities will monitor the carrying capacity of 19,000-plus tourists per day and confusing statements from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which is in charge of the island’s rehab, which can change “on a daily basis”.
* The new ayes and nays in Boracay per BHTT’s overview report:
‘One entry, one exit’ policy – before taking the boats to Boracay, tourists need to queue up at the tourism information counters outside the terminal building, log in their names, present their resort voucher/confirmation then ‘rubber stamped’ on the arm with the insignia that says ‘verified’. The guard at the pier will check this mark before allowing tourists to board the waiting boats.
On beaches – sunbeds, umbrellas, cocktail tables and couches; smoking and drinking; hawkers and vendors; beach parties, fireworks display and sand-making activities.
Water and land activities – diving, ATV driving, island hopping and parasailing