Tourism Industry stakeholders in Boracay Island pin their hope on the government's promised support, focusing on eco-friendly strategies that combine "work and leisure" under a "new normal" era as tourism businesses struggle to stay afloat.
At the Inquirer Project Rebound’s online forum billed “Tourism Revival: What Has Worked, What’s Next,” held on April 22. Noa Macavinta, a board member of the business group Boracay Foundation Inc., stressed that "the current situation in Boracay is dire with most of the tourism operators starting to run low on cash reserves."
Macavinta, who manages the Diniwid Bar and Restaurant, added that even if the government finally lifts the travel and quarantine restrictions, some hotels and businesses won't be able to reopen.
"We need guests, we need people to fill the rooms to keep us operational and keep us afloat," he said.
Since March of Last year, the Island has been struck hard by travel restrictions, especially foreign travel.
At least P49 billion in potential tourism revenues were lost in 2020 as tourist arrivals dropped from 2.03 million in 2019 to 334,455. Tourism revenues also plunged to P9.18 billion last year from P58.18 billion the previous year.
The Island of Boracay started accepting tourists back in June last year; however, tourist arrivals remained way below pre-pandemic levels, 4,000 to 5,000 tourists daily. The lockdown in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces in April and the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Boracay significantly contributed to its loss of tourist arrivals.
The Department of Tourism continues to provide to the affected tourism establishments with zero interest and no collateral loans. According to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat in a video message during the forum, they managed to give a P5,000 cash aid for the displaced workers by using funds from the Bayanihan 2 law worth P10.1 billion.
Macavinta said that government assistance is greatly appreciated and needed but further suggested that there should also be a program to assist the business operators in meeting their expenses for reopening their businesses once more.
Moreover, he hopes that the "work-from-paradise" or a mode of travel for tourists bringing their work while taking a vacation would continue.
These tourists were the "lifeline" of most of Boracay's business, especially those coming from Metro Manila that stays for a month or longer on the island.
There has also been a shift of traveling preferences according to the DOT survey conducted last year and it showed that most travelers and tourists now prefer open-air activities such as going to beaches, mountain climbing, and hiking, Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said the spokesperson for the tourism department in the forum.
Macavinta said business operators had also foreseen that changes put in place during the pandemic would remain when tourism returns to a “new normal,” citing an increase in online services and transactions to book trips.