One of the hottest topics in the Philippines right now is the rehabilitation, and possible temporary closure of Boracay. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Department of Tourism (DOT), have recommended a closure of Boracay Island from anywhere between two months to one year in order to rehabilitate the island.
We have been hearing many statements from the government bodies and officials, and want to show the other side of the coin. Days away from the decision, we give the floor to the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association, the premier organization of sales and marketing leaders in the Philippine Travel and Tourism Industry, representing the Hotels and Resorts segment. We get their thoughts and recommendations on this situation that will no doubt affect the tourism and hotel industry greatly.
JOINT STATEMENT OF HOTEL SALES AND MARKETING ASSOCIATION (HSMA), PHILIPPINE TOUR OPERATORS ASSOCIATION (PHILTOA), PHILIPPINE TRAVEL AGENCIES ASSOCIATION (PTAA) and TOURISM CONGRESS OF THE PHILIPPINES (TCP)
YES to Rehabilitation.
NO to Closure. Because Boracay is the centerpiece of Philippine Tourism and closure of the island will harm the entire Philippine Tourism Industry, with massive and long-lasting repercussions.
CLOSURE OF BORACAY: EFFECTS ON LIVELIHOOD
According to figures provided by the Boracay Foundation, there are in excess of 17,000 people that will be directly affected by total closure. These are employees of hotels, resorts, restaurants, dive shops, souvenir shops and tour activity and transport providers. Add to this number the informal sector estimated at 19,000 people, such as beach masseurs, tattoo artists, vendors and others who live hand-to-mouth and day-to-day. On top of this are the families and dependents of these workers. The impact on individual lives cannot be ignored.
CLOSURE OF BORACAY: EFFECTS ON BUSINESS
Of the total tourism receipts from January to September 2017, 20% or Php56B was generated by Boracay. More than the effect of closure to individual business entities, the contribution of this to the country’s economy cannot be disregarded. The loss of this revenue contribution in the short-term may not be felt immediately but the recovery as Boracay tries regain its place as a major destination will be an uphill climb. The recovery of business may take years to return to its present levels.
CLOSURE OF BORACAY: EFFECTS ON COMPETITIVENESS
The saleability of the Philippines as a tourism destination vis-à-vis its competitors in the region will be greatly compromised by a closure. The hard work and marketing efforts of tourism industry over the years will all come to naught, while our regional competitors reap the benefits as tourists divert their travels elsewhere. It is simple to say that there are other destinations in the Philippines that tourists can go to. However, it is undeniable that Boracay is the centerpiece of a visitor’s trip. The fact that Boracay is portrayed as an environmental disaster will speak not just of the island, but of the Philippines as a destination as a whole, because if it can happen to the No. 1 product of the country, then it can happen to the rest of our tourism offerings.
• Allow 60days (April-May) for the island’s stakeholders to undertake individual clean-up and rehabilitation of their properties
• Only the properties/entities found to have violated environmental and zoning regulations to be closed
• An assessment of remedies put into place by the stakeholders to be undertaken by the government agencies concerned prior to the end of the 60day allowance. If efforts made are not to enough, then and only then will a closure be effected. If timelines are followed, said closure to happen in June 2018, in time for the so-called Low/Habagat Season
In the meantime, a firm and concrete plan must be created with timelines, desired outcomes and responsible agencies/entities clearly identified.
INTERVIEW OF HSMA PRESIDENT
We interviewed HSMA President Christine Ann Ibarreta, Director of Sales and Marketing for Golden Phoenix Manila and Boracay, who shared her opinion on the matter.
Question: Do you feel that there will be a negative or positive knock-on effect to Philippine Tourism in general, if Boracay is closed?
Answer: Before anything else is said, the HSMA is all for the rehabilitation of Boracay and we believe in Triple bottomline: People, Planet , Profit. As hoteliers, yes it will pose a negative effect to Philippine Tourism because commitments to both business and leisure clients were inked / arranged prior to this planned rehabilitation. There will be displaced clients, in this case they will be assisted in refunding and re-booking. There are countries that allow closing down of their beaches, but this was planned and communicated to the stakeholders ahead of time.
Q: Do you think the closure will have a long term positive or negative effect on Boracay tourist numbers?
A:We have to always look at this on a positive note. The closing of Boracay will bring about a better Boracay as promised by the government.
Q: Do you think the assumption that guests booked for Boracay, Bohol, El Nido etc, will happily switch their holiday to other destinations, is realistic?
A: If you are bent on going for a vacation to the Philippines, you won’t have any choice, so many islands to enjoy and to discover.
Q: Has HSMA discussed their recommendations with any of the government decision makers assigned to the Boracay issue? If so, what feedback have you received from them?
A: Yes, we did. They are bent on doing what they want to do.
Q: Do your members in Boracay already have a contingency plan in case the closure order will push through?
A: They are in a shock right now because of this move, they are at the moment preparing communications and contingency plans on informing, refunding, 360 communications plan.
Q: Should the closure order push through, what are the legal repercussions to be faced in terms of airline and hotel cancellations?
A: All reservations and bookings will be refunded as its declared as it will be declared as state of calamity.
Q: What can be done, presently and in the future to prevent this from happening again to Boracay and other tourist destinations in the Philippines? What else can be done aside from compliance?
A: Stakeholders should actively implement a plan where their companies are compliant as well as the new ones being built.
Here are the other statements that have been released by the HSMA on the matter.