Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has restricted nightlife on Boracay Island which has reopened to more local tourists last Thursday.
In a television interview over ONE News, the Tourism chief stressed that even with the gradual reopening of the country’s largest tourism market, safety is still the priority.
“I told the mayor and the governor na wala na munang parties at walang drinking (in public) kasi kapag lasing mawawala na ang physical distancing. I know people go to Boracay to party but I think now is not the time because we have to be careful,” she said.
Puyat said indoor gatherings will follow the national government’s COVID-19 task force’s guidelines for areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) which allows 50 percent venue capacity provided that the health and safety protocols are observed.
“They can gather but not the old "party" concept Boracay was known for in the past,” she added.
The island has been under MGCQ since June and has maintained a zero COVID-19 case and Puyat has strongly urged visitors to be responsible travelers to keep this.
If a COVID-19 case slips through the island, Puyat said she might impose localized or even hard lockdowns just like what Baguio City did depending on the gravity of the case and added that they have prepared for the “worst” with regards to the reopening of the island to more local tourists.
The Department of Tourism has allowed 397 accommodation establishments to operate on the island starting Oct. 1.
International tourism body World Travel and Tourism Council has suggested to Philippine authorities that Boracay implement crowd moderation to maintain it as a pristine destination.
In a recent report titled “To Recover and Beyond: The Future of Travel and Tourism in the Wake of COVID-19,” the WTTC said authorities may consider the limiting capacity of the world’s highly vulnerable destinations.
“For instance, to ensure Boracay remained a pristine destination following its rehabilitation, the government of the Philippines reduced the number of rooms on the island as well as the number of day-trips to the island,” it said.
The Tourism Secretary said that they have yet to discuss with the Inter-Agency Task Force the island's carrying capacity amid the existing health crisis.
Boracay can take in an average of 19,000 visitors per day at any given time. But the island is expecting to accommodate lower guests to ensure physical distancing.
To avoid popular and potentially crowded locations, the WTTC also said businesses and destinations should develop more remote offerings and promote non-traditional destinations.
“While spreading tourism and managing crowds will be key, travel and tourism should not become an exclusive, high-priced experience for a few, but remain one that many experience,” it said.
The organization also said digital solutions should be integrated to support in the management of crowds and physical distancing within top attractions, such as theme parks and museums.