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Update: Effects of Travel Bans due to COVID-19

No tourist arrivals from China or South Korea have caused a huge drop in tourist revenues forcing some Boracay businesses to close. Over the weekend, when the normally busy island would be packed with peak-season visitors, many establishments were empty or were closed entirely. Tour and transport operators struggled to attract customers from the relatively thin crowd.

Travel restrictions imposed by the Philippines to and from China and South Korea, as well as those countries’ own restrictions on travel due to the Covid-19 epidemic, have prevented virtually all Korean and Chinese tourists from visiting Boracay.

A survey reported that business on Boracay is down about 80 percent since the beginning of February for lack of visitors.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, said “there is no local transmission of Covid-19 in the country,” the Tourism chief added. “So, it’s safe to travel in the country.”

News reports over the weekend claimed that 11 South Korean visitors to Boracay from South Korea’s North Gyeongsang were suspected of being infected with the coronavirus.

They were allowed to depart on February 28 and 29 after they exhibited no symptoms of Covid-19.

“There is almost no business now,” tour coordinator Jerrick Arellano said. “A lot of places have just closed and a lot of people have lost their jobs,” most of them seasonal or contractual.

Arellano confirmed that he and the several other employees of the tour company he works for had been informed that they would be reduced to half-salary as of March 1 “indefinitely.”

“Before, P20,000 per month, now P10,000,” he said. “They said until further notice. We don’t know when it will get better. And almost everybody has the same problem.”

The visitors who did make it to Boracay were apparently enjoying the quieter surroundings.“It’s fantastic, isn’t it” said Mark Wells, an Australian visiting Boracay with his wife Terri said as he waited in line for coffee on Sunday morning. “It’s beautiful weather, the beach isn’t crowded at all, you don’t have to wait to get a table for dinner. I know the people are having problems because there’s not as much business, but it’s been lovely for us. If you ask me, this is a great time to come here.”



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