NEGROS Occidental and other provinces in Western Visayas need to increase their tourist arrivals by at least 1.2 million this year to compensate possible losses brought by the scheduled six-month closure of Boracay Island in Aklan, the region’s top tourist destination.
Department of Tourism (DOT) Western Visayas Director Helen Catalbas, at the sidelines of Tourism Enterprise Innovation and Self-Reinvention Seminar at GT Hotel in Bacolod City Monday, April 9, said though Boracay is such a huge contributor in Western Visayas tourism, but its closure will hardly make a dent on the region’s total industry picture.
Catalbas said that other parts of the region also have unique attractions which have not even unleashed their potentials to 50 percent.
“Other provincial destinations will compensate such possible reduction in number of visiting tourists,” she told SunStar Bacolod, adding that “amid the closure, we are confident to still get a lot more tourists on a regional picture.”
The tourism official said part of the market of the island-destination will go to other provinces, including Negros Occidental, provided they can offer similar tourist experience.
“Aklan tourism would suffer because it is where Boracay is located, but the rest of the region would be affected positively,” Catalbas added.
The projected arrival losses, a combination of local and foreign tourists, will be shared by other provinces.
Catalbas said Negros Occidental and its capital Bacolod City will have to increase its tourist arrivals by at least 400,000.
The same with that of Iloilo Province and its capital Iloilo City, including Guimaras.
Mainland Aklan, Antique and Capiz will also have a share of 400,000 increase in tourist arrivals, Catalbas said.
“These three components may not have the same number of foreign arrivals like Boracay thus, we will increase more on the local guests,” she said, adding that “if we can strengthen our provincial destinations among these areas, I am sure we can compensate.”
In 2017, DOT-6 has registered a total of about 5.8 million tourist arrivals, higher than its target of only 5.5 million.
For this year, the agency targets to cater at least 5.8 million and 6.1 million in 2019.
“We are one year ahead of our target,” Catalbas said, as she pointed out, though, that it is a big challenge for the region to still contribute to the international tourist arrival target of the country given that Boracay is close for a half of the year.
Of the 2.2 million tourist arrivals in Aklan for 2017, about 990,000 or 45 percent are foreigners mainly hosted by Boracay Island.
Thus, the regional line agency recognized the need to make other destinations more attractive to foreign markets.
In February this year, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a total clean-up of Boracay Island, as he vented frustrations amid environmental woes hounding the destination.
Duterte, last week, approved the recommendation of the inter-agency task force on Boracay to close Western Visayas' top tourist destination for six months starting April 26.