Although Boracay’s carrying capacity is 6,405 people per day, only 10 to 15 per cent are foreign tourists, compared to 70 to 75 per cent pre-pandemic.
This observation was made by stakeholders interviewed by TTG Asia at the recent 34th Philippine Travel Mart of the Philippine Tour Operators Association.
Unfortunately, Boracay’s losses started when it closed for six months for its environmental rehabilitation, which was made worse by the pandemic.
Lea Rosales-Wong, director of sales and marketing, The Muse Hotel, conceded that Boracay can be expensive because as an island, it imports everything from the mainland including food, labour, electricity and gasoline.
South Koreans, the island’s top market, have reportedly been opting to head to Vietnam instead. To combat this, Boracay hotels have reduced their rates, where the price of staying at a five-star hotel in Boracay, is about the cost of staying in a three-star hotel in Vietnam.
Claribel Casimero, president, Boracay Island Travel Agency and Tour Operators Association, pointed out that regional flights, mostly chartered from South Korea, China and Taiwan, have also not been fully restored.
Moreover, Boracay was rebranded from a leisure destination to a family-orientated destination which meant that bars and beach parties were restricted, which could have affected tourist numbers as well, said Casimero.
To return to 2019 levels, Rosales-Wong opined that attractive airfares and more marketing and promotions for Boracay are needed.
A source requesting anonymity said the island is currently being sustained by local business events and leisure tourists, but destinations need foreign tourists to survive and grow.
The source added that the government should have started promoting Boracay soon after the removal of international borders.
“They’re promoting other destinations but why take Boracay out of the picture when it’s the destination that introduced Philippine tourism to the world? If you go to other countries, they don’t know the Philippines but they know Boracay”.
Another source who also requested anonymity agreed, and pointed out that the government should have started promoting Boracay after the reopening of Philippine borders.