The “shock” move to close the Philippine island of Boracay due to overtourism issues has been hailed “the best possible outcome” by one of the country’s tourism chiefs, after the hot spot reopened last month.
The new-look island began welcoming back visitors to its shores on October 26 – just six months after major sewage problems, caused by decades of unregulated building, forced its closure and saw waters being polluted.
Prior to ordering its closure, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte branded the destination “a cesspool”.
Since then, the island has undergone a “rigorous” clean-up programme, with a taskforce created to manage sustainability.
As part of the changes, a maximum of just over 19,000 tourists are now allowed to visit each day.
New road infrastructure and regulations surrounding large parties and constructing temporary structures is also in place.
Speaking to The Official WTM Event Daily, Art Boncato, undersecretary of Philippine Department of Tourism, said the country would look to become a “trailblazer” in sustainable tourism within Asia by using the example of what it had done with Boracay to help neighbouring nations.
“Shutting Boracay back in April, in the lead up to a bumper summer season, was a shock for our tourism industry but the president made the right call and one that was needed,” he said.
“It was a decision not based around business and making money but protecting the welfare of our tourists and the sustainability of our country, now the island is back to what it was like 20 or 30 years ago.”
Boncato said the Philippines would also look to implement similar strategies around capacity limitation for its other island destinations such as Palawan, Bohol and Siargao.
He added that the reopening of Boracay would help the Philippines in a “late push” to reach 7.4 million global visitors by the end of 2018.
The country is currently enjoying a 8.36% increase in global visitors from January to September this year – with 5.3 million tourists visiting during the period.