By Charlie Greene
Since Oct 1st when Boracay opened its borders to domestic tourism, the number of people visiting the island has been extremely disappointing for local businesses.
Presidential spokesman Duque recently visited Boracay and ‘encouraged’ more people to visit our shores. Alas, the few that have already arrived have been welcomed by closed shops, restaurants, bars, little or no water sports, and a huge lack of things to do. Not to mention limited swimming hours and a strict daily curfew. I think his encouraging words will be falling on death ears.
Even before tourists arrive, the expensive and cumbersome paperwork required is putting a lot of people off.
Four friends came down from Manila last week and told us they had each paid P5,500 (two other clinics had asked for a P8k - 10k) for a swab test. Plus other travel documents have to be obtained and submitted to receive your QR code, which had to be scanned no less than 11 times at different places at Manila airport; which apparently was disorganised and more of a mess than it normally used to be.
Arriving at a tourist destination that has just been acclaimed by the govt as ‘open’, yet being void of any other tourists, and ‘looking’ like it’s closed, is extremely disappointing. Especially with all the extra cost and work involved in getting here.
“I was surprised at the lack of things to do and the number of places still closed. It looks like an old ghost town”. Remarked one guest.
“If this is what ‘open’ is like, you must have had it really bad during the closure”. Said another.
One father we spoke to remarked. “It’s nice and peaceful and great not to be hustled by vendors, but there’s nothing to do for a family here. It’s hard to find any life or enjoyment here now because it really isn't open yet. I know we have to pay for swab tests, and I understand why and don’t mind that. But it’s hard to justify everything then when you arrive the wife and kids feel disappointed. We’ll try somewhere else next time. I feel cheated by being told it was open”.
One of our friends from Manila used to live and work on Boracay a few years ago. She was delighted to be back, and knowing the previous crowds and problems on the island, was happy to swim and have the beach to enjoy with her son. “I’m ok with all this, I’ve partied on Boracay in it’s heyday, so know what it used to be like. The lack of people now doesn’t bother me either. However, I don’t have to rely on a job here to earn a living anymore. I’ve seen people I know who are walking around lost. They have no jobs, no money and can't even get back to their own provinces or towns”.
For those of us who live here and want to see the Island thrive again, comments like the above don’t give us much hope for our future.
As much as I would like to “encourage” my friends to come visit. It wouldn't be fair on them if I never told them what to expect, or rather, what not to expect.
Big changes still need to be made before Boracay will again be somewhere where we can welcome our friends back to.
Let’s hope the DOT, IATF and our LGU start seeing the true picture, and then act on it accordingly.
Wouldn't It be nice to be back in full swing this Christmas!