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Ripple of disappointment over Boracay shutdown reaches S. Korean travelers

Boracay is a favorite destination in the Philippines for foreign tourists. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Busan, South Korea—The dismay over the temporary closure of Boracay Island later this month has spread far beyond its idyllic shores.

In South Korea, which until recently was the top source of Boracay’s foreign visitors, there was a wave of disappointment for fans such as Brian Son, who works at a hotel and casino resort in Busan City.

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Son and his wife spent their honeymoon in Boracay three years ago, a visit he hopes to repeat.

“It was big news here,” he told the Inquirer. “It’s sad for us.”

President Rodrigo Duterte, who once called the island a “cesspool,” approved the closure of the resort island for six months starting April 26, to address environmental and law enforcement issues.

READ: ‘Cesspool’ tag upsets Boracay residents

The cleanup was criticized over its impact on the livelihood of thousands of workers as well as business establishments that had adhered to the rules.

Boracay drew over two million visitors in 2017, generating some P56 billion in revenues. The Duterte administration said it would set aside a P2 billion fund for workers affected by the closure.

READ: P2-B calamity fund to tide Boracay over

South Koreans like Son were the second-largest group of foreign visitors in Boracay at 356,644, according to the Department of Tourism. They were edged out of the No. 1 spot by Chinese tourists, which numbered 375,284.

“A large proportion of Chinese and South Korean visitors spend their entire holiday in Boracay,” think tank CAPA-Center for Aviation said in a report. It cited the growing presence of foreign carriers in Kalibo International Airport, one of two air gateways to Boracay.

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“It will be challenging to convince North Asian tourists to select alternative beach destinations in the Philippines, rather than more popular beach destinations in other Asian countries such as Bali in Indonesia and Phuket in Thailand,” CAPA added.

It expected all foreign carriers operating in Kalibo such as South Korea’s Jin Air and Singapore’s Scoot to suspend flights brought about by Boracay’s closure.

Domestic airlines will also take a hit

CAPA noted that Boracay accounted for some 6 percent of seat capacity at Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines while Air Asia Philippines had allocated over 20 percent.

“The impact of Boracay closure on our operation is almost insignificant compared to its effect on our guests, especially those who have saved up their money to be able travel this summer, which is why our focus is on assisting them and providing them with flexible options so as not to disrupt their holiday plans,” Dexter Comendador, CEO of Air Asia Philippines, said in a statement.

“We are adding several flights to Cebu, Davao, Palawan, Bohol, Iloilo, and other leisure destinations for our guests to choose from,” he added.

CAPA urged the Philippine government to offer incentives to foreign carriers for these promotions of other destinations in the Philippines. It said one such alternative is Palawan.

“The upcoming closure of Boracay will generate plenty of negative headlines, but there are multiple silver linings for the Philippines aviation sector, tourism and the country overall,” CAPA said.

For his part, Son said that apart from Boracay, he is not considering any other destination in the Philippines at the moment.

“Let’s see about going next year,” he said. /jpv

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TAGS: Boracay, cesspool, environment, resort island, shutdown, South Korea
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