Boracay reopening to foreign guests eyed by October

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BORACAY Island, the crown jewel of Philippine tourism, is looking to reopen to foreign guests within a travel bubble.

Stakeholders who attended a meeting on Saturday called by the provincial government said Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores proposed to open Boracay by October “for that bubble travel.”

BusinessMirror sources said the stakeholders agreed to the reopening, “but require a [negative] RT-PCR test” from guests, at least five days from the date tested. Miraflores also “got the commitment of hotel owners to give a discount [on  published room rates] up to 75 percent,” the same sources said.

The Aklan government is eyeing the travel bubble to initially be with South Korea, with Philippine Airlines flying between Incheon and the Kalibo International Airport. A working group has been tasked to discuss the details of the agreement between the Aklan LGU and Boracay stakeholders, before it is  presented in the next Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force meeting.

The island has already completed its Covid-19 testing laboratory, which will help stakeholders get health checks for their employees. Per agreement between stakeholders and the LGU during the meeting on Saturday, a protocol will be established for workers to get a “daily symptomatic test.” This can help boost the confidence of tourists to travel to Boracay again, according to the provincial government.

Boracay, known the world over for its powdery white sand beach, is currently open to tourists from Western Visayas, which is currently under modified general community quarantine. The Department of Tourism (DOT) has deferred to local government leaders when they want to reopen their provinces and tourists destinations to holidaymakers and vacationists. (See, “LGU chiefs, worried by virus, holding up tourism reopening,” in the BusinessMirror, July 9, 2020.)

As of August 13, at least 164 accommodation establishments in Boracay already have certificates of authority to operate,  six of which have provisional CAO. These 164 establishments have 3,377 rooms, according to data from the DOT-Western Visayas.

Travel curbs update

Meanwhile, about 40 percent of destinations worldwide have already eased travel restrictions they had put in place to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has been monitoring global responses to the pandemic from the start of the crisis.

“This latest outlook, recorded on 19 July, is up from 22 precent of destinations that had eased restrictions on travel by 15 June and the 3 percent previously observed by 15 May. It confirms the trend of a slow but continuous adaptation and responsible restart of international tourism,” said the global agency of tourism in a news statement over the weekend.

However, of the 87 destinations that have eased travel restrictions, “just four have completely lifted all restrictions,” while 83 have eased them while keeping some measures such as the partial closure of borders in place. The UNWTO noted 115 destinations, representing 53 percent of all destinations worldwide, “continue to keep their borders completely closed for tourism.”

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said, “The restart of tourism can be undertaken responsibly and in a way that safeguards public health while also supporting businesses and livelihoods. As destinations continue to ease restrictions on travel, international cooperation is of paramount importance. This way, global tourism can gain people’s trust and confidence, essential foundations as we work together to adapt to the new reality we now face.”

The Philippines continues to implement travel restrictions, which resulted in a 71.5-percent fall in visitor receipts, and  a 73-percent plunge in inbound arrivals from January to July 2020. Many of the local tourism stakeholders are micro, small, and medium scale enterprises numbering 500,000, and supporting 5 million jobs.

Stakeholders have been appealing to the Bicameral Conference Committee members discussing the proposed Bayanihan 2 Act for working capital loans to be able to get back soon their feet. (See, “Tourism sector loses P190 billion in March-July,” in the BusinessMirror, August 13, 2020.)

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