DOT: Fewer local tourists spent Holy Week in Boracay amid looming closure

Nony Basco, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 03 2018 06:11 PM

Tourists lounge along Boracay's white sand beach even amid rehabilitation plans and a proposed tourism shutdown. Nony Basco, ABS-CBN News

BORACAY ISLAND - Fewer local tourists came to Boracay over the Holy Week break as the government pursued a massive cleanup and mulled over closure plans to address pollution on the famed beach destination, the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Western Visayas said Tuesday.

This even as total tourist arrivals increased in March, with even more foreign visitors coming to the renowned island for their holiday. 

Local tourist arrivals dropped by about 18 percent this year compared to figures during Lent in 2017, Chris Vellete, the tourism department's representative in Boracay, told reporters.

A total of 22,772 Filipinos flew to Boracay over the long weekend, lower than 34,613 arrivals of local tourists during the Holy Week in 2017, data from the Municipal Tourism Office of Malay, Aklan showed.

At least 33 out of 267 hotels on the island also reported cancellations of about 385 bookings for rooms supposed to be occupied by 636 tourists.

"Bad publicity of Boracay in social and mainstream media [are seen] as the reason for the decline in [local] tourist arrivals," he said.

In February, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shut down the island to tourists to make way for clean-up and rehabilitation efforts.

FOREIGN ARRIVALS INCREASED

Despite this, foreign tourist arrivals were not affected by news of a looming closure and reports about polluted waters on the island, which the President earlier described as a "cesspool."

Foreign arrivals in the popular island destination increased by about 3,700 as 23,223 foreigners stayed in Boracay in the last week of March this year, compared to 19,490 in the same period last year, official data showed.

Despite this, the Aklan Provincial Tourism Office said tourist arrivals in Boracay for the entire month of March increased.

About 172,358 tourists visited the island in March 2018, 7 percent higher than the 160,696 arrivals in March 2017, the office said.

A Palace official earlier said the government may decide on the date and mode of the island's closure on Wednesday during a scheduled Cabinet meeting.

Boracay has consistently topped the Philippines' most popular tourist destinations, tourism officials said.

Last year, some 3.72 million people flew to the island, data from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines showed.