Amid Unstable Currents: Locals in Boracay Today

22 July, 2024

Boracay’s tourism and local businesses were just beginning to recover from a six-month closure for rehabilitation in 2018 before the COVID-19 pandemic impeded its growth momentum.

Fortunately, the world-renowned beach has since opened its doors last October 1, 2020, to accommodate more tourists and help support locals who were hit hard by the pandemic. Tourists can now curb their wanderlust by visiting Boracay, provided that they follow set guidelines and strict health-and-safety protocols to protect themselves and the locals.

Among these requirements are:

  • a negative RT-PCR test acquired 72 hours prior to travel;
  • a confirmed booking with DOT-approved hotels in Boracay; and
  • an Online Health Declaration card that can be accessed on the Aklan government website.

The latest Boracay news updates report that there is no age restriction imposed on visitors. Just be mindful of the guidelines, and prepare your documents accordingly to avoid any complication in your travel experience.

Photo courtesy of Junho via Pixabay

The Boracay Interagency Task Force (BIATF) did its best to support the local economy while keeping in mind the dangers that the virus poses. However, is the number of visiting tourists enough to support Boracay's local livelihood?

1. Unstable currents.

Photo courtesy of Anjeliica via Pexels

The short answer to the last question is "no". In fact, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry - Boracay (PCCI-Boracay) admitted that the volume of tourists visiting the island is not enough to support its local businesses that are now going bankrupt.

The number of tourists visiting the island dwindled to 1,303 since Boracay reopened in contrast to the daily, pre-pandemic number of 3,000 to 5,000 visitors. Figures like these threaten thousands of jobs that rely on tourism for their livelihood.

Boracay may be a paradise and an ideal getaway to people living outside Aklan; but to locals, it is more than that. It is a place that enables them to start lives and support their families—a haven that is sadly slipping away from their grasps.

Most business owners are apprehensive about reopening since their revenues might not sufficiently compensate for the cost. Nowie Potenciano, who owns the famous Sunny Side Cafe and Coco Mama, said in an interview that visitors might also be discouraged to visit them due to the guidelines set by LGUs.

Potenciano told the Business Mirror, “It’s still too big a risk for us to open right now. All the LGUs have their own guidelines which make it very confusing for would-be travelers.”

This means Boracay’s visitors do not only have to deal with the virus but also with the obstacles of acquiring the much-needed documents.

2. The end of an era.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Among the local livelihoods struck hard by the pandemic are restaurants and family-run hotels that had been around for decades.

Restaurateur Binggoy Remedios, who runs the 20-year-old Don Remedios establishment, told the Inquirer that he was forced to sell his business due to the scant amount of visitors in Boracay.

”The business has been good to me, especially since 10 years ago. But all our savings will be gone if we don’t earn soon,” he said.

More Boracay business news updates also report about family-run resorts ceasing operations. One of which is owned by Malay Councillor Nenette Aguirre-Graf whose resort was unable to accept visitors since September 2020, thus forcing its closure after 17 years of operation.

The closure of these establishments marked the end of an era for most local livelihoods due to the impact of the pandemic. Yet one must also think about the number of employees and jobs that had to be let go of.

Business owners claim that the testing requirement to visit the island has strongly discouraged potential tourists from visiting Boracay. Fortunately, the Department of Tourism announced recently that it will be ,subsidizing COVID-19 tests for Boracay-bound tourists.

Moreover, recent news about Boracay also reveal that some 1,423 Boracay hotel workers will be tested to ensure their safety and those of tourists'. During this pandemic, how can travelers help the Philippine pride that is Boracay get back on its feet?

2. Traveling as a charity.

Photo courtesy of Ed_Davad via Pixabay

While it may seem that traveling is a reckless and luxurious thing to do in the middle of a pandemic, it is not an overstatement to say that it can also be a form of charity. Locals in Boracay need tourists like you who will support their businesses and livelihood to be able to survive the pandemic.

Why not spend your holidays in Philippine getaways that are waiting for you to come to visit them? Get to enjoy yourself while you help others to recover from the pandemic. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.

One excellent way to spend your time in Boracay is to enjoy the island as if you were a local. Take advantage of the uncongested beaches; so you could enjoy the vast sapphire waters, as though it's your private beach. Make the locals feel that you are one with them through this pandemic.

There are tons of activities you can do in Aklan to enjoy the local experience such as celebrating the Ati-atihan festival in January in the form of the.

Additionally, the Museum It Akean is also open to cater to your interests, if you are a researcher or someone who would just like to know more about the rich history of Aklan. More importantly, support local livelihoods, especially peddlers and small shops selling memorabilia, ornaments, and whatnot.

There are customs to be remembered when immersing yourself in Aklan, although some of them may be prohibited for now such as the tradition of pagmamano. This is the practice of placing one’s head on top of an elderly’s hand as a sign of respect.

If you are unable to visit Boracay, there are other ways to help such as by donating to charities such as the Philippine Red Cross - Boracay Malay Chapter. The medical frontliners in the country need your help in whatever form.

Locals in Boracay want you to know that they are doing their best to keep you safe. So don’t be afraid to help them by visiting and supporting them.

4. Filipinos are in this together.

Photo courtesy of Tim Marshall via Unsplash

The pandemic disrupted the world, and the way to survive it is to help one another get through these difficult times. At the end of the day, Filipinos will have to rely on one another to recover from the damages and losses caused by the virus.

Support local tourism by visiting Boracay while following health-and-safety guidelines to keep everyone safe. Don’t let COVID-19 get in the way of enjoying yourself while also helping others.