DOMESTIC travelers to Boracay have exceeded their pre-pandemic numbers, helping lift total visitor arrivals to 1.83 million as of November 7.
According to data posted by the Malay-Boracay Tourism Office on its Facebook page, of the 1.83 million arrivals from January to November 7, 2023, Filipino domestic travelers accounted for 1.43 million, while foreigners reached 357,066. Overseas Filipino workers numbered 35,668.
In 2019, prior to the pandemic, 2 million tourists descended on Boracay, with foreign nationals reaching some 1.07 million, while domestic travelers numbered 932,433, as per data from the Department of Tourism (DOT).
This year’s visitors exceeded the 1.7-million arrivals in the entire 2022 by 7.6 percent.
Simplified entry procedures
Still, Boracay stakeholders expressed concern on the “decline” in tourists, especially foreign nationals, who spend more than locals. Filipinos also appear to be ditching Boracay and prefer traveling abroad because airfares and hotel rates are cheaper there, they said, especially during the recent long All Saints Day/All Souls Day break. (See, “Regular passenger traffic seen at Naia for long ‘Undas’ break,” in the BusinessMirror, October 27, 2023.)
Their concerns were addressed by Aklan Gov. Jose Enrique “Joen” M. Miraflores, who issued Executive Order No. 097 on November 13, lifting the requirement on visitors to submit their hotel vouchers via the Akquire system before entering Boracay Island or any point in the province. The requirement was instituted at the height of the pandemic as a way to monitor the movement of visitors, and enable the local government to quickly implement measures and control any Covid outbreak.
The Malay-Boracay Tourism stressed, however, that tourists should still book with DOT-accredited hotels and resorts “for your convenience and safe[ty].” Last year, Aklan also lifted the requirement for tourists to register via QR code.
In a separate post on his page last November 17, the local chief executive also announced the “opening of the beach. Allowing the beach beds and umbrellas for tourists to enjoy.” He added that night swimming will be allowed until 9 p.m., while food and drinks will now be served on party boats. He also suspended the P20,000-fee charged foreign tour guides.
Balancing environment and economy
The local chief executive also assured there will be “continuous dialogue on having a unified ticket [at the] jetty port,” another concern raised by stakeholders during the 2nd Boracay-Caticlan Sustainable Development Council last November 15.
In a statement released to the BusinessMirror, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Boracay said the organization supported “government’s efforts in responsibly relaxing regulations and in improving guest experiences for Boracay’s invaluable tourism visitors. Priority points such as limited and regulated beach usage rules, shifting the burden of hotel compliance [through hotel voucher requirement] from the tourist to between business and government, and a look at some of the fees are welcome improvements. The changes at the Caticlan Jetty Port towards easing entry requirements for a quick and convenient arrival will enhance the tourist arrival experience by leaps and bounds, which is quite exciting as well. But this is just the beginning, of efforts to elevate the overall Boracay experience, from a warm and convenient arrival, a relaxing island holiday, and a fuss-free departure.”
The group also encouraged fellow stakeholders to “set a good example” by following the new guidelines. “Boracay has come a long way since the six-month government-imposed island closure in 2018, and those gains must be continued and carefully evolve,” balancing the environment and economic growth.
Image credits: Stella Arnaldo