Boracay—which is known for its powdery white sand, rich water sports and vibrant nightlife—recently grabbed the headlines after President Rodrigo Duterte called the Philippines’ world-famous island a “cesspool.”
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Boracay shutdown spooks European tour operators
Ian Nicolas Cigaral (philstar.com) - May 18, 2018 - 3:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government has shutdown Boracay to give the country’s top tourist draw a makeover, prompting visitors, some of them Europeans, to cancel their pre-booked trips and rethink whether they would still visit the country in the future.

“It was a very tough sell I have to say because of the closure of Boracay. So it was very untimely,” European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines President Guenter Taus said, as he recalled his recent tourism mission in Europe. “It was hard to sell the Philippines as a tourism destination.”

Boracay—which is known for its powdery white sand, rich water sports and vibrant nightlife—recently grabbed the headlines after President Rodrigo Duterte called the Philippines’ world-famous island a “cesspool.”

The firebrand leader had blamed what he called excessive tourism and development for Boracay’s environmental woes, with many businesses polluting the island’s surrounding waters by discharging waste directly into the sea.

Malacañang last month announced that Duterte approved the proposed closure of Boracay for a maximum period of six months ostensibly to pave the way for a major cleanup, which could likely affect the popular island’s economy that’s almost entirely dependent on tourism.

'Scared'

While demand for Boracay could actually surge if the government succeeds at restoring the island, Taus said some European tour operators “don’t want to touch the Philippines” after having a hard time getting a refund for the canceled bookings.

Taus also said tour operators from Europe are “scared” that a similar incident could happen again following the Philippine government’s announcement that it would inspect other tourist destinations.

“Yes, it was clearly verbalized when we were there. They said, ‘If it (Philippine government) can close one island, it can close any island anytime,’” he said.

There are 553,000 European tourists that come to the Philippines every year, data provided by the ECCP to the media show.

Meanwhile, based on Taus’ estimates, Boracay’s closure wiped out “half of what you would normally expect” in terms of the number of European visitors, most of whom selected more popular destinations in other Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

But Taus said he expects European arrivals to recover after the ECCP started promoting emerging tourist destinations in the Philippines like Bohol and Siquijor—a strategy that he said was “positively” received by tour operators in Europe.

“I’m sure it will bounce back the moment we shift gear and look at other opportunities as well because as news dies, you try to feed in a little more positive thing and you go from there,” the ECCP chief said.

“That’s why we shifted away from this mainstream tourism... I think that will be easier to sell because it has nothing to do with one particular destination,” he added.

Related video:

BORACAY EUROPEAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE PHILIPPINES
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