By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY – There has been no huge turnout of visitors at Boracay Island, the country’s most popular beach destination, which reopened June 16 to residents of Western Visayas region after a three-month lockdown.
“It felt like a ghost town,” said Flord Nicson Calawag, a tour operator from Antique province who went on a Wednesday morning tour at the resort island located in Malay town, Aklan province.
Calawag told Manila Bulletin in a June 17 online interview that he expected low turnout as many were still afraid to travel due to the fear of contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The national government earlier approved the reopening of Boracay only to residents of Western Visayas, a region comprising of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental provines as well as the highly urbanized cities of Iloilo and Bacolod.
Aside from COVID-19’s health threat, there were also socio-economic factors.
“People will always prioritize paying their bills rather than travel [for leisure],” Calawag pointed out.
It was unclear how many regional tourists went to Boracay, but Malay Mayor Frolibar Bautista said that only six tourists came on the first day of the post-lockdown reopening.
In a separate interview, Bautista admitted to Manila Bulletin that news of a person infected with COVID-19 visiting the resort island last week may have also had a negative impact on other potential visitors. The mayor was referring to the female personnel of Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) who allegedly went to Boracay from June 11-14 when her test result for COVID-19 was still pending.
The Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force also has set other strict policies including age limits that ban people below 21-years-old and above 60-year-old while only guests with confirmed hotel or resort bookings will be allowed.
“It may take a while until people feel safe and when they are financially stable,” Bautista added.