PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – The city government is anticipating a boost in tourist arrivals in Puerto Princesa City with the impending closure of Boracay starting April 26.
Michie Meneses, City Tourism Office (CTO) promotion and marketing division chief, said they are expecting the city’s current average of 85,000 monthly visitors to double in numbers starting last week of this month.
“The CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines) confirmed to us that starting April 25, we will be having another 10 redirected flights from Kalibo every week,” she said.
The tourism industry in Puerto Princesa City sees Boracay’s impending closure as an opportunity to showcase the city’s community-based sustainable tourism (CBST) sites, along with its flagship tourist destinations Puerto Princesa Underground River and Honda Bay.
“This is a good opportunity for us to have these tourists see the beauty of Puerto Princesa,” she said.
Meneses said some tour operators in Boracay had already paid a courtesy call to the city government two weeks ago to ensure their guests are well-received in Puerto Princesa.
The city has 270 accommodation establishments with around 4,000 rooms to house these tourists, she added.
As Boracay’s closure draws near, the CTO, tour operators’ association, and CBST managers are scrambling to finish the repackaging of tours in preparation for the expected increase in tourist arrivals.
“Basically, there’s nothing new except that tourists can avail of tour bundles,” Meneses said.
“For example, the existing underground river tour package will be bundled with CBST sites at a minimal additional cost. That way they could say there are more to Puerto Princesa than its famed underground river,” she added.
Meneses said the tour operators are finalizing the price per tour bundle and will submit it for deliberation within the week. She said the CTO will release it once approved through a city ordinance.
Arnaldo Tan, president of the Association of Accredited Tour Operators of Puerto Princesa, said they already saw this opportunity coming.
“Due to the closure, tourists have nowhere to go but to fly to other tourist destinations like Palawan. We welcome them, especially in Puerto Princesa,” he said.
Tan said the repackaging of tours would address the lack of well-developed destinations in the city.
“We have limited tourism sites. Although we have plenty of CBST sites, they are not yet developed, so somehow we’re not prepared for that sudden influx of tourists,” he added.
Tan’s group is hopeful that the tour repackaging could be a fresh way of visiting the city which prides itself on a wide array of nature and outdoor activities.
“Our goal in repackaging is for our tourists not to experience dull moments but to have a good time during their stay here,” he said.
Tour agencies operating in Boracay can tie up with local tour agencies. “However, they are not allowed to bring in their tour guides so as not to displace our local accredited guides,” Tan said.
The CTO said it will also train more community tour guides next month and place them in different CBSTs around the city.
Meneses said they are currently installing informational signage on anti-littering ordinance on various destinations around the city.
“We have to enforce the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ rule. Whatever you bring inside the destination, you should not leave it there. Bring it as you go and throw it properly,” she said.
Andrew Russell, chief of the City Solid Waste Management (CSWM), said they a have the sufficient number of trucks to collect waste to be generated by tourists.
“In case the number of tourists and waste generation increase, Puerto Princesa can catch up with that,” he said.
Currently, Russell added that the city’s daily garbage collection averages 140 metric tons. After the tourism season, it will go down to 120 metric tons on average a day.
Mary Ann Joylle Madriñan, senior environment management specialist at the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO), said they will have a coordination meetings this month with the city’s Oplan Linis program and CSWM.
“This is to define our responsibilities as part of the institutional arrangement for long-term maintenance of cleanliness in the city,” said Madriñan, who heads the City ENRO’s environmental management services division. – Rappler.com