LAST month Cebu, Palawan and Boracay made it to Condé Nast Traveler’s list of the 20 “Best Islands in the World” outside the United States, as ranked by readers for its 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards survey.
While the magazine’s travel experts predicted that South America would take off as the next travel hot spot beginning this year, the results of the survey revealed a varied mix of destinations around North America, Europe, the Caribbean and, of course, Southeast Asia.
This news came at the most opportune time, given that we needed something to remedy the beating that our country’s tourism industry has been getting in the recent years: persistent terrorist threats and security issues; the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) being tagged as the worst airport in the world; and, most notably, the bullet-planting fiasco (tanim-bala) that certainly harassed and hassled both our local and foreign tourists.
For me, this recognition does more than just secure our place on the map, as the three islands have been among the most popular Philippine destinations that gather significant numbers of tourists all-year round. Rather, it’s more about cementing the Philippines’s status as a reputable, world-class destination that can only get better, provided we pursue the best global practices that industry insiders like Condé Nast Traveler alert us to.
Slices of tropical paradise
A quick look at the list tells us that adventure-hungry travelers all want a slice of paradise offered by the winning islands, and it’s a global trend that’s here to stay. With the majority of the islands boasting of white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and palm-lined shores, it’s easy to see why three of our own have made it to the list—and dominated the top 5 spots at that!
Cebu, which ranked fifth on the list, charmed readers for the beaches in its mainland and the surrounding islands and for being “more personal, with plenty of up-and-coming restaurants and shopping”. To create a luxurious experience, the island has also become home to a number of award-winning luxury hotels and resorts, such as Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa, Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, and Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts.
Known for its white-sand beaches, limestone formations and exquisite diving spots, Palawan shot to the top of the list again and landed at the second spot this year, and Condé Nast attributes this to a “recent claim to fame”: being home to one of the new seven natural wonders of the world, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. For its own share of idyllic luxury, the island is also dotted with a number of upscale accommodations, with Amanpulo and Dos Palmas Resort the top choices for discerning travelers seeking privacy and comfort.
Hailed as the best island in the world is the itty-bitty island of Boracay, whose gentle coastlines, transporting sunsets and thriving nightlife scene draw international visitors by the thousands every month. White Beach, the biggest and most popular of its powdery beaches, is often brimming with travelers wanting to experience soaking in its famous azure waters, and basking in the opulence of its high-end resort hotels, such as The District Boracay and Ambassador in Paradise.
Tailor-fit travel trends
My dream—and I’m sure I share this with many of my ardent fellow travelers—is that this Condé Nast recognition can be the start of our local travel industry tailor-fitting global trends to the best that our country has to offer, instead of just merely following the ones everyone else has been doing.
A lot of the trends experts predicted for this year involved seeking new experiences; increased spending by travelers who believe it’s worth it; and staying connected while on the go. All of these resonate to our country’s young, well-informed and technology-driven travelers, who, as I mentioned in my previous columns, are now keen on more than just sight-seeing and putting premium price tags on life-changing adventures.
Cebu, Palawan and Boracay are all great cases in point. Condé Nast’s list showcases them in the good company of the world’s most sought-after destinations, yet they all have certain characters that set them apart from each other. Vibrant Cebu, for example, has become known for hosting an eclectic mix of bustling city life and tranquil vacations. Palawan, on the other hand, is regarded as a sanctuary for marine biodiversity and natural attractions. And last, festive Boracay delights beach-goers, island hoppers and party people.
The Philippines has a lot more to offer, and I believe we should always be looking for ways to build on these accolades to highlight the many other unique experiences and postcard-worthy landscapes that await travelers from all over the world. After all, they’re only getting started with three of our 7,107 islands.
Image credits: Lonely Planet, Backpacking Pilipinas, ETA Travel and Tours