tourism, overtourism, travel, coral reef, environment, Philippines, close, Boracay, beach, sewage, water quality
Philippine Tourism

Paradise island to shut down for clean-up

The travel trade struggles to rearrange bookings with just a month to go before Boracay’s closure.

In the Philippines, the government has been closing tourism companies on the paradise island of Boracay found to be violating environmental regulations, and last week it suddenly recommended the full closure of the island to give time for an undisrupted clean-up operation.

Boracay attracts more than a million tourists a year to its white-sand beaches, bringing in around €630 million in annual revenues. But the massive tourism has caused serious environmental damage, with its coral reef seriously degraded and the seawater affected by the direct discharge of untreated waste water.

In February, President Rodrigo Duterte called Boracay a “cesspool”.

With just a month to go before Boracay’s closure, however, the travel trade is criticising the lack of details on this drastic decision that will hit local businesses and the Philippines’ economy as a whole.

Questions as basic as how long the closure will last are still unanswered, TTG Asia writes. It could last two months – or as long as six months.

Travel companies urgently need more details of the plan because “they have to manage bookings that will be displaced […] either for change of booking dates or relocation of guests to other resorts together with their booking partners, travel agents or conference organisers,” argues Christine Ibarreta, president of the country’s Hotel Sales and Marketing Association.

They also have to “manage manpower leaves, relocate to sister properties” and make provisions for the drop in revenue, displaced workers and inconvenienced business partners.

China and South Korea are the island’s biggest foreign markets, but the destination also sees many European holidaymakers. They are now likely to be diverted to other resorts in the country, or abroad to places like Phuket, Pattaya and the Maldives.

The bookings will fall under force majeure, experts say, and travel agencies will have to refund passengers who have already paid for their bookings.

Boracay is the second most popular cruise destination in the Philippines after Manila, and scheduled sailings are having to look for alternatives.

Overall, the fear in the travel trade is that the island’s closure will further tarnish the Philippines’ image as a destination.

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