Boracay ready for more tourists

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ENJOYING SUNSET More tourists will witness Boracay’s stunning sunsets when domestic tourism resumes as quarantine restrictions are eased starting next month. —JACK JARILLA

Hotels and resorts in Boracay have offered discounts in room rates of up to 75 percent as the island in Malay, Aklan, prepares to welcome more tourists outside of Western Visayas next month.

Tourists, however, must be ready to comply with health and travel protocols set up by the local government and the task force overseeing the rehabilitation of Boracay.

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“We are ready and preparing for more visitors to come in and have put in place health protocols,” acting Malay Mayor Frolibar Bautista told the Inquirer on Wednesday.

The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF), which supervises the rehabilitation of the island, approved on Tuesday night the request of the local governments of Aklan and business operators on the island to allow tourists from other areas where quarantine restrictions had been eased. On June 16, it allowed tourists from Western Visayas provinces to visit the island.

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The BIATF has also required airlines to use the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in the village of Caticlan in Malay as the only airport of entry of tourists to the island starting Oct. 1.

The lowered room rates are aimed at encouraging tourists to visit Borcay, where businesses had suffered due to prolonged community quarantine measures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rooms that usually cost between P8,000 and P10,000 a night would be offered to as low as P2,500 to attract guests, said Elena Brugger, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Boracay.“Tourists will be spending already for the swab tests so we will be lowering the room rates,” she said.

Preparations

During the Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said visitors from areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) would be allowed on the island. “We’ve seen their preparations and we can say that come Oct. 1, Boracay is prepared for domestic tourists,” he said.

REHAB IMPACT In this photo taken in April 2019, tourists enjoy a wider and cleaner beach in Boracay after obstructions and illegal structures were removed as part of the island’s environmental rehabilitation. —ROBERT JAWORSKI L. ABAÑO

‘Test before travel’

In a statement, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that under the “test before travel” rule, visitors to Boracay must present a negative RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) result obtained two to three days before arrival.

Also, travelers will be advised to go on a strict quarantine immediately after a test and until the time of travel to the island.

Año said Boracay had put up a COVID-19 isolation unit for use in case a visitor tests positive for the virus or is suspected to have contracted the disease.

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Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said visitors would need to have prearranged reservations and must follow health and safety guidelines set by hotels, resorts, restaurants and tour transport companies.

QR codes

They should submit a health certificate and RT-PCR result online and would be issued quick response (QR) codes for scanning upon arrival at Caticlan jetty port, the jump-off point to Boracay, Bautista said.

“The reopening of Boracay to new market sources signals a gathering momentum for domestic tourism all over the country. We are pleased that the BIATF and the [local governments] of … Aklan and … Malay have agreed to put health and safety as the priority as we carefully and safely welcome more guests to the island,” Puyat said.

Helen Catalbas, tourism regional director, said the DOT had issued certificates of authority to operate to 199 accommodation establishments with 4,416 rooms.

The DOT will be meeting with local government officials, business groups and airline operators to ensure that flights are available for tourists.Catalbas said the opening of the island to more tourists would help revive the economy of Western Visayas.

From June 16 to Sept. 20, 3,780 tourists visited Boracay, according to data from the Malay tourism office. This was lower than the 4,000 to 5,000 tourists who came daily before the pandemic.


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