A TOURISM trade association said the government’s efforts to rehabilitate Boracay should be done in phases to give the industry time to smooth out the disruptions to visitor bookings.

Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jose Clemente III on Thursday told reporters: “We want to help but if they want to totally close it, there’s nothing that we can do. The only thing we can do is to ask for a little time so that we can fix whatever it is that we need to fix like the bookings of our clients,” he added.

“We’ve been asking, where is the plan, share it with us but there’s no indications that the government is willing to sit down and meet with us.”

He added that time is needed to allow the industry to make personnel decisions.

“From the hotel side, you have to consider what they are going to do with their manpower; how can you reassign them?” he added.

“For tour operators, our programs with our partners from abroad are one year in the making so it’s all in the brochures. If I tell them that Boracay is no longer available, what will be the reaction?”

The Boracay tourism industry has estimated that the closure of the island will affect some 19,000 workers.

Citing data from January to September 2017, it said Boracay generated tourism revenue of P56 billion, or about 20% of the total.

“The loss of this revenue contribution in the short term may not be felt immediately but the recovery as Boracay tries to regain its place as a major destination will be an uphill climb,” the island’s tourism stakeholders said in a statement.

Christine U. Ibarreta, president of the hotel marketing professionals’ association HSMA, estimated the revenue losses from a total closure at P50 million for each of the association’s 11 member hotels.

While tourists can be redirected to other beach destinations, Mr. Clemente said that these areas may also reach overcapacity.

“The tourism industry is doing so well that all of these other destinations are also nearing their capacity. If [we direct the] tourists to go to other destination, they cannot take much more,” he added.

“It’s not as easy as it maybe made out to be than if you talk about other destinations. A month’s time is not even enough to prepare these other destinations.”

Mr. Clemente, however, said that it is the government’s job to gauge the capacity for Boracay and other tourists destinations.

The industry proposed a 60-day period, or April and May, to rehabilitate their properties, followed by an assessment at the end of that period.

The group also proposed the closure of only those establishments that were found to have violated environmental regulations.

“If efforts made are not enough, then and only then should a closure be effected. If timelines are followed, said closure to happen in June 2018, in time of the so-called Low/Habagat season,” the Boracay stakeholders said. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato