Poor Boracay. It’s not even two years since the resort island was closed for six months, drastically affecting its businesses and the livelihood of its locals, and now comes the COVID 19 scare. One of its business owners, Nowie Potenciano, who runs The Sunny Side Cafe, SpiceBird, Supermagic and the very successful Coco Mama (there’s never a visit we pass it by when there’s no sizeable queue), took to Facebook yesterday afternoon, Boracay sunset time, to appeal to his friends and people who see his feed to choose the Philippines if they’re planning on traveling anytime soon. “Or even better,” he writes, “please come over to Boracay.”
The scare, says Nowie’s note, is “presenting another tough challenge to all the businesses and workers on the island.” He continues: “Not only are there virtually no Koreans and Chinese (who make up almost 60% of tourists) anymore, but even visitors from other countries to Boracay have dramatically dropped because they’re afraid of the virus. Travelers are avoiding Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo which are hubs to getting to Manila.”
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Things aren’t as sunny as usual, if talk in the island is to be believed. “We’ve been hearing stories of 4% and 15% occupancy in some hotels. Workers being asked to go on leave for 15 days, only to come back to half-day duties or being given a schedule for only a week. The desperation is palpable down to the vendors and boatmen who are virtually begging for business among the handful of tourists left.”
To paint a clearer picture, Nowie and his wife Odette already had to close down one of their businesses, Popo Teahouse, a contemporary Chinese restaurant. “Apart from the lack of Chinese visitors, it seems people are generally wary of eating Chinese food at this time,” Odette tells ANCX over Facebook messenger. “We didn’t really set out to cater exclusively to Chinese customers unlike the ones run by mainland Chinese. In fact, we got a lot of Filipino western customers in Popo Teahouse. However, it seems like everyone’s avoiding Chinese restaurants for the meantime.”
Another shop they own is also experiencing a marked dip in business, showing a drop in sales by almost 80 percent. “Thankfully, we’ve been able to re-assign staff to the remaining restaurants and everyone is still employed. But if we have to close one more shop, it’s going to be...difficult,” says Nowie’s post.
The Potencianos have been doing business in the island for 15 years now, and Nowie says there’s no better time than now to come to Boracay. “The beach is absolutely beautiful and is the most empty I’ve ever seen it in almost 20 years of coming to the island.” He mentions the airline and accommodation deals that are a reaction to the low tourist activity. “It’s easy to get seats at restaurants and moving about is a breeze.”
More importantly, noted Nowie’s post: “Best of all, there have been ZERO confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Boracay and Malay, Aklan.” And the Potencianos promise to make sure you have a pleasant visit. “Everyone in this industry we call hospitality could use the boost.”