Domestic tourism in the Philippines is gradually getting back on its feet as travel restrictions begin to ease in parts of the country.
Under the modified guidelines that were put in effect since 1 June, residents of the National Capital Region Plus (NCR+) bubble — Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal — are now allowed to travel to other parts of the country, subject to the destination’s entry requirements.
The loosening of travel restrictions in the country's largest source market for domestic tourism is a bright spot in what has otherwise been a grim year.
With the travel ban now lifted, data from the Malay, Aklan Municipal Tourism Office revealed that a total of 9,066 tourists arrived in Boracay through Caticlan from 1-13 June. Of this number, 64% (5,772) visitors to Boracay came from the NCR.
Randy Salvador, general manager of Coast Boracay, is hopeful of a steady recovery. The 71-room beachfront resort had remained open throughout the pandemic, temporarily closing only for the two weeks in April when the island was on lockdown.
“There are more tourists now, and most of our guests are vaccinated, so they’re confident about travelling. All of the tourists from Manila are so excited to be here because they’ve been on lockdown for so long,” he said.
Salvador expects that tourism workers in Boracay will be vaccinated come August — great timing as inquiries for the last quarter of the year start streaming in. December, he added, traditionally the busiest time in the island pre-pandemic, is looking good.
Located at Station 2 Beachfront, Boracay Island, general manager Randy Salvador says December bookings are already looking good.
More island destinations open up
Things are also looking up in Siargao island, where the temporary ban on tourists from the NCR+ bubble has been lifted. The announcement, made by the provincial government on 17 June, has had an almost instantaneous effect.
Camille Porras, who runs a boutique eight-room hotel in General Luna, Siargao called Sea Green, said she has received a surge in inquiries since the ban was lifted. “The number of messages that came in right after the announcement, surprised me,” she added. “I haven’t felt this excited and hopeful about things picking up again in a long time.”
Sea Green has survived on a number of long-staying guests along with other tourists from other parts of the country. Although the island remained open to other tourists, and local life in the main tourism town of General Luna carried on at a much slower pace, local businesses owners have been feeling the squeeze.
These latest travel developments, along with an ongoing vaccination rollout, are revealing hope in the horizon.
“All these seem like signs that revenge travel might already be underway,” said Elka Requinta of the Happiness Group, the company behind Goodies, a new restaurant slash boutique which opened at Arka Hayahay Surf and Beach Resort.