Boracay Island is a gorgeous place on Earth. Its White Beach and other beaches are simply fantastic. The sites have drawn tourists to this otherwise relatively rural area of Malay, Aklan, Philippines, for years. The region is dependent on tourism.
And now there is a revised Boracay tourism plan. But will it be enough to draw back the crowds?
When the coronavirus shut everything down, income disappeared for thousands and thousands of people.
I have met several Filipinos who used to make a living from Boracay tourism: sailing crew, dive masters, wind surfing instructors, tour guides, and more.
It even affects mainland Malay on the nearby, much larger island of Panay. Our friend and landlady Yolly has little business at the Hangout Beach Resort. An embroiderer for souvenirs had good business during the boom times, but not now.
People who worked in the tourism sector have moved back home with families in Kalibo, or Caticlan, or other mainland locations. These days, these people try for alternative sources of income.
They are selling their possessions, crafting flower pots, selling homemade food or “ice candy”.
Everyone wants to work. Everyone wants to be valued. But outside tourism, there aren’t many, if any, jobs.
I spent some time with a local family the other day, and they asked where Tedly was. I told them my husband was up on Ati mountain, working on projects. Eyes got wide around the table.
Maybe, someone suggested, (a family member) can work with your husband. There are no other jobs right now.
I wish we could create jobs out of thin air. I wish we could help everyone who needs it — not only the indigenous Ati tribe. But we can’t. And that weighs on me heavily sometimes.
Boracay tourism plan
When Boracay opened to regional tourism several weeks ago, there were big hopes that people living in the Western Visaya area of the Philippines would flock back to the famed beaches.
It didn’t happen. A few dozen people showed up that first week, and the number of visitors has never taken off.
Boracay is still closed to most travelers, including international visitors. Right now, it’s like a deserted paradise, compared to the days of thousands of visitors swarming the beach.
When it will fully reopen remains a a mystery, thanks to the ‘Rona. So local leaders have made some recent changes to the Boracay tourism plan to drum up more regional business.
They’ve got to do something. People are desperate for income.
Age restrictions lifted
People under 21 and over 60 years old have not technically been allowed to travel to Boracay since the partial reopening. Now, they can.
Boracay business leaders have lamented that family travel is less likely if your family members aren’t allowed to go with you. So Boracay got permission from the Department of Tourism to scrap age-related restrictions.
Temperature checks & phone numbers
I have been over to Boracay several times since it opened in June. At the port, you have your temperature checked, step on sanitizing mats, get your hands sprayed with sanitizer, and give your phone number for possible contact tracing.
Supermarkets and malls, guards take your temperature and spray your hands with sanitizer and you sign in.
At individual shops and restaurants, it’s up to the proprietor whether your temperature will be taken, but every place has sanitizer and a sign in book for possible contact tracing (aside from sari-sari stores).
Before you go into the water, you must sign in at lifeguard stations, where there are temperature checks and hand sanitizer. If you wander down the beach to a different station, you must sign in again.
There are no known cases of COVID-19 on Boracay at the moment. Leaders need to keep it that way, along with health and safety measures, so tourists feel safe enough to return.
I haven’t seen a high-tech thermal scanner at the Caticlan port, but reportedly it’s coming. Two of them have been donated to the country.
One facial recognition thermal scanner was recently installed at the Kalibo International Airport. It’s the first one in the Philippines. That’s how important tourism is to this region – and this country.
“Through this, we could guarantee to tourists that we have an effective and modern tool in our campaign against Covid-19,” an official is quoted as saying.
The ‘new normal’
Will these precautions and changes be enough to lure people back to this part of the planet? I think it will help to some degree.
But overall, I think the ‘new normal’ will not have as many casual tourists as in previous boom times. I do not think easy tourism money will return. At least not anytime soon.
Meanwhile, I will continue to head over to Boracay once or twice or thrice a week. I will patron the businesses that are still open, and enjoy the beaches that are special to Boracay.
Thanks for reading, “Boracay tourism plan boosted by new features.”
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