Tourist arrival target maintained at 7.4 million despite Boracay closure

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TOURISTS are seen at the white sands beach of Boracay — AFP

THE Department of Tourism said it remains on track to hit its target of 7.4 million visitors this year despite the six-month closure of Boracay island.

Tourism spokesperson Benito C. Bengzon, Jr. said after the closure in April, “the private sector quickly came up with its own contingency plans and promoted other destinations.”

In 2017, visitors to the Philippines totaled a record 6.6 million. In the seven months to July this year, the DoT recorded 4.31 million visitors, up 9.74% year-on-year.

Mr. Bengzon said that due to the closure of Boracay Island, other destinations were quick to come up with their own responses.

“The Boracay experience compelled them to take a closer look at the importance of balancing tourism and development with the protection of the environment,” he added.

“In our development plan, it was very clear, sustainable and inclusive program. We have to make sure that we achieve our collective goal of more environmentally sustainable tourism.”

Closed for six months for rehabilitation, Boracay is set to reopen on Oct. 26. The dry run will begin on Oct. 15, and is only open to visitors from Aklan province.

Last week, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that the government is still in the process of clearing the island’s wetlands by relocating squatters. — Anna Gabriela A. Mogato