Mass tourism nearly destroyed the island paradise of Boracay in the Philippines. An average of 6,400 daily tourists day took a major toll on just about every aspect of life on the island, overwhelming public sanitation systems, overcrowding beaches, and clogging transportation infrastructure. In desperate need of rehabilitation, Boracay famously banned tourists in April of this year.
Now, after a six-month closure, the island is reopening its doors in October, albeit in a very limited manner. During the tourist ban, progressive steps were taken to put better management systems in place for waste, development, and public health across the island. Lodging capacity will be closely monitored, as will tourist activities and behavior. According to the Philippines Department of Tourism, the days of a free-for-all island party are over. “A better and more sustainable Boracay is set to welcome back visitors on October 26th,” the department said in a release.
The tourism office has yet to provide details on exact tourist capacity, but only 5,000 hotel rooms will be open for booking in advance of the reopening. The island’s economy has soared in recent years, drawing more than two million visitors annually and becoming one of the country’s most popular tourist draws. But the small island simply wasn’t developed in a manner to house, feed, and monitor that many people. Those planning a trip should expect major changes, particularly if they plan to indulge in the island’s legendary party scene. The casinos are gone and there will be no more drinking or smoking on the white beaches. Additionally, the popular “Laboracay” celebrations that drew 60,000 to 70,000 people to the island each year over Labor Day weekend are now a thing of the past.
The remainder of Boracay’s tourism infrastructure, including the hotels, restaurants, and beaches not open in October, will not be available until the island is back at full-scale operation in late 2019. “October is only a soft opening… how can you rehabilitate an island under a state of calamity in only six months?” said Bernadette Romulo-Puyat to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Tourism will remain the driving force of Boracay’s economy, but in a much more sustainable fashion.
H/T: Condé Nast Traveler