THE damage has been done. Resorts on Boracay Island have yet to get back their mainland Chinese and Korean guests despite the government aviation body allowing new and additional charter flights to Kalibo and Caticlan. Both municipalities are gateways to the island resort, known as one of the best beaches in the world.
A sales director of a large chain of resorts on the island disclosed to the BusinessMirror, “we haven’t been able to recover the old bookings. Of course, when the CAB [Civil Aeronautics Board] suspended the charters, our guests went to other countries instead.” She noted Vietnam, for one, became a beneficiary of this government action.
Another sales manager of a popular resort on the island also revealed that their property had yet to regain its Chinese bookings. “It’s a good thing we had FIT [free and independent travelers] guests who came in,” she said, although these were still not enough to recover the losses from the earlier group bookings that were canceled as a result of the sudden order.
The Hotel Sales and Marketing Association Inc. had estimated losses of its Boracay members to be, at least, P2.2 billion on canceled bookings from July to September.
Without warning, the CAB suspended new and additional charter flights to Kalibo and Caticlan in a memo issued on June 19.
Pressed by local tourism stakeholders on the issue, the CAB finally lifted the suspension on July 15, and allowed carriers with scheduled flights to continue with their summer season schedule. The government agency, likewise, restricted aircraft to be used by charters and noncharter services to fewer than 200 seats.
In a letter to Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat dated July 17, Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) President
Arthur M. Lopez described the situation as a “financial disaster for our hotels, as they can only recover their bookings after three to four months.” The tourism chief is the vice chairman of the CAB.
Based on feedback from PHOA members and their foreign operators, he pointed out, “damage has been done and our credibility suffers,” and that “other operators and airlines lost trust [in our market] because they lost money.” This also resulted in losing the momentum of the hotels and operators in promoting and selling Boracay.
He pointed out, “it’s already too late to chase the lost bookings during the lean months—July to September groups were all diverted to Danang in Vietnam, Phuket and Pattaya [in Thailand]. Some groups have gone to Korea and Japan.”
He also noted that “tour packaging is a whole process that takes months to plan, develop, price, negotiate, market, operate and implement.”
Lopez expressed hope that tourism stakeholders would be consulted in future decisions that would affect the industry, and that this be “based on more facts and substantive data.” He averred, the CAB cited data in its new decision lifting the moratorium on new and additional charter flights to Caticlan and Kalibo, which proved this “did not, in the first place, warrant a moratorium at all.”
The PHOA, he also said, suggests the government adopt a tourism strategy with respect to Boracay, after the millions of pesos spent on rehabilitation and upgrading of the island’s facilities and services.
“The proportion of the markets to the island vis-à-vis arrivals by air and land/maritime, likewise need further review,” he added.
Establishments on Boracay are still trying to recoup the massive losses they recorded last year during the island’s six-month closure in 2018.