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AKLAN, Philippines – Despite concerns within the local tourism sector about challenges such as stringent regulations, high taxes, and competition from other Philippine destinations, Boracay’s tourism saw more than two million tourists this year.
“We anticipate that the number to go up because of the expected surge in tourists due to the holidays,” said Felix Delos Santos, Malay town’s tourism officer.
Malay town’s tourism data from January 1 to December 19 showed 2.036 million tourist arrivals on the island. Most of them, however, come from various areas of the country, and there were fewer foreign tourists.
The peak was noted in July, with 207,696 arrivals, followed by May, with 207,512 tourists.
The local tourism office noted that East Asians – South Koreans, Japanese, and those from mainland China, Hongkong, and Taiwan – topped the list of Boracay’s foreign visitors this year. From January to June alone, there were 116,906 tourists from these places.
Tourists from Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States come a distant second with only 26,188.
Third on the list are those from Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, at 14, 096 tourists.
Boracay also logged 13,032 tourists from Europe – Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Czech Republic, and Switzerland.
Officials said it was unusual in that Boracay Island logged the highest number of tourist arrivals in July. In previous years, the peak season for Boracay was from October to May of the succeeding year.
From December 1 to December 19, only 95,240 tourists have been registered.
Gil Delos Santos, Malay’s former tourism chief, noted that 80% of Boracay’s visitors were non-foreigners and that a factor for the decline in foreign tourist arrivals was the development of other tourism destinations in the Philippines, including Puerto Princesa in Palawan and Tagbilaran in Bohol.
“The economic yield was not much because we had low-spending and short-staying customers. Add to this are the requirements that make it difficult for tourists to come to Boracay,” he said.
In October, the Boracay business community, led by the Boracay Foundation Incorporated (BFI), urged both Aklan Governor Jose Enrique Miraflores and Malay Mayor Floribar Bautista to ease restrictions to attract more foreign tourists to the island.
Concerns raised included costly local taxes and fares to and from Boracay, public notices seen as tourism-unfriendly, and more. The local taxes were P300 for environmental fees for each foreign tourist to and from Boracay and P150 for terminal fees.
The BFI has sought standard environmental fees for local tourists at P150 each.
Malay Councilor Alan Palma Sr. said they were reviewing ordinances and aiming to establish tourist-friendly taxes.
Boracay’s beaches have numerous signs listing advisories against littering, smoking, and urinating on the beach.
According to stakeholders, these excessive signs create a perception of Boracay as a strict zone instead of a relaxing destination, particularly for foreign tourists.
Aklan 2nd District Representative Teodorico Hareshco called on the local government of Malay to pass an anti-loitering ordinance.
“I observed that several sea sports agents are loitering on Boracay’s beaches, approaching vacationing tourists and asking them to try their services. If there is an anti-loitering ordinance, tourists could enjoy their stay without being disturbed,” he said. – Rappler.com