Bye Bye Boracay: Duterte approves 6-month closure of famous tourist hot spot
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Bye Bye Boracay: Duterte approves 6-month closure of famous tourist hot spot

ONE of the Philippines’ most famous tourist hot spots will be off limits from April 26 after President Rodrigo Duterte approves a six-month closure of Boracay island, paving the way for a major clean-up of what he has described as a “cesspool.”

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced the closure late on Wednesday in a post on Twitter.

“Bora closed for six mos effective 26 April,” Roque said.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra told the Inquirer disaster funds would be activated to help workers affected by the closure. This didn’t stop people from expressing their disappointment and concern for local businesses affected by the move.

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The island, four miles long and less than a mile wide, is about 320 km south of the capital, Manila and has become a favourite with backpackers for its long white beach and lively nightlife.

Duterte made the decree for closure after visiting the island in February. He is said to have been outraged by “environmental violations” that have left the island a “cesspool.”

“You go into the water, it’s smelly. Smell of what? S***. Because it all comes out in Boracay,” he said.

While the move will likely a long-term positive impact on tourism in Boracay and the Philippines, the short-term impacts could be significant, especially on the country’s three main airlines.

According to CAPA Centre for Aviation, Boracay accounts for approximately six percent of seat capacity at the Cebu Pacific Group and the Philippine Airlines Group while smaller Philippines AirAsia has over 20 percent of its capacity allocated to the Boracay market.

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“Philippines tourism authorities will need to invest heavily in marketing alternative tourist destinations, and work closely with the impacted airlines, to avoid a decline in overall visitor numbers,” the group said in a statement.

Boracay attracts approximately 2 million annual visitors, close to half of which are foreigners. Total visitor numbers to the Philippines reached 6.6 million in 2017, following three years of double-digit growth, but with the closure of Boracay, the Philippines may struggle to meet its 7.4 million visitor target for 2018.