Aviation think tank sees 'multiple silver linings' despite Boracay closure

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Aviation think tank sees 'multiple silver linings' despite Boracay closure
“Demand for Boracay could actually surge if the government succeeds at cleaning up the island.”
File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Despite the unusual move’s possible impact on tourism in the Philippines, the looming half-year closure of Boracay for rehabilitation could have long-term positive effects, Sydney-based think tank CAPA-Centre for Aviation said.

“Demand for Boracay could actually surge if the government succeeds at cleaning up the island,” CAPA said in a report released on Wednesday.

“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,” it added.

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’ top tourist draw a “cesspool.”

The firebrand had blamed what he called “overzealous” 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 early this week announced that Duterte approved the recommendation of three government agencies to close Boracay for a maximum period of six months, effective April 26, ostensibly to pave the way for a major cleanup.

‘Great opportunity’

According to CAPA, shutting down Boracay would be a “golden opportunity” for the government to promote the country’s emerging tourist destinations like Palawan, although it won’t be an easy task.

“Philippines tourism authorities will need to invest heavily in marketing alternative tourist destinations, and work closely with the impacted airlines, to avoid a decline in overall visitor numbers,” CAPA stressed.

“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,” it added.

Boracay—the country’s third largest aviation market, after Manila and Cebu—has attracted millions of tourists and is particularly popular with Chinese and South Korean visitors, which are the largest source markets for the Philippines tourism industry.

Officials say closing Boracay could displace 35,000 workers and wipe out P18 billion to P20 billion in gross receipts, as the world famous island’s economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism.

Following Duterte’s order, domestic airlines like Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and AirAsia Philippines announced they will cut flights to the holiday hotspot, while tourists planning to visit Boracay over the next six months have already been canceling their trips. 

“Total visitor numbers to the Philippines reached 6.6 million in 2017, following three years of double digit growth, but with the closure of Boracay the Philippines will struggle to meet its 7.4 million visitor target for 2018,” CAPA said.

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