Struggling Boracay business operators stay bullish

By: Nestor P. Burgos Jr. – Correspondent

Boracay Island’s tourism industry players are struggling to survive and are now pinning their hope on the government’s promised support under a “new normal” era that will focus on an eco-friendly strategy that combines “work and leisure” for tourists going to the island.

“The current situation in Boracay is dire with most of the tourism operators starting to run low on cash reserves,” Noa Macavinta, board member of the business group Boracay Foundation Inc., said at the Inquirer Project Rebound’s online forum, billed “Tourism Revival: What Has Worked, What’s Next,” held on April 22.

‘We need guests’

Macavinta, who manages the Diniwid Bar and Restaurant, said some hotels and business establishments will not be able to reopen when the travel and quarantine restrictions will be lifted.

“We need guests, we need people to fill the rooms to keep us operational and keep us afloat,” he said.

The 1,032-hectare island has been hit hard by the travel restrictions especially on foreign travel since March last year.

Boracay lost at least P49 billion in potential tourism revenues in 2020 as tourist arrivals dropped to 334,455 from 2.03 million in 2019. Tourism revenues also plunged to P9.18 billion last year from P58.18 billion the previous year.

The island began accepting tourists in June last year but arrivals have remained way below the prepandemic 4,000 to 5,000 tourists daily. The lockdown in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces in April and a recent surge in COVID-19 cases on the island also severely impacted tourist arrivals.

‘Lifeline’ tourists

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a video message during the forum that the Department of Tourism (DOT) had been providing zero-interest and no-collateral loans to affected tourism establishments and a P5,000 cash aid to each displaced worker, using its P10.1-billion allocation from the Bayanihan 2 law,

Macavinta said they welcomed the government assistance but there should also be a program to assist business operators in meeting expenses in reopening their businesses.

He said they also hoped that the “work-from-paradise” mode of travel of tourists who brought their work while vacationing on the island would continue.

Tourists, especially those from Metro Manila who stay for a month or longer on the island, have been a “lifeline” for Boracay businesses that continue to operate, he added.

Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr., also spokesperson for the tourism department, said in the forum that a DOT survey last year showed the shifting preferences of consumers in favor of open air activities like going to the beach, mountain climbing, and hiking.

Macavinta said business operators had also foreseen that changes put in place during the pandemic would remain when tourism returns to a “new normal,” citing an increase in online services and transactions to book trips. INQ

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