MANILA, Philippines — While the current atmosphere in Boracay is still far from the hustle and bustle of pre-pandemic times, there is now a feeling of guarded optimism on the island as tourists begin to return.
Boracay started to reopen its doors last February, when the government began accepting leisure travelers from overseas.
The island, however, has been accepting local tourists since October 2021. They now make up the majority of 62,490 visitors on the island as of last Feb. 13.
Boracay has dropped the requirement for fully vaccinated tourists to present negative COVID test results prior to entry, making it more convenient to visit the world-famous island.
The easing of restrictions led to the arrival of boatloads of tourists to the island, which meant good business for local vendors and workers who bore the brunt of Boracay’s economic downturn at the height of COVID lockdowns.
“Filipinos love to buy pasalubong, so our business somehow manages to get by,” souvenir vendor Norhata Macatanong told INQUIRER.net in Filipino during an interview recently.
Macatanong said her current daily revenue on her T-shirt business ranges from P2,000 to P3,000, which is just a third of her pre-pandemic sales of up to P10,000 per day. She said her current income, however, was much better than when the island was closed to tourists, which temporarily shuttered her source of livelihood.
“We hope that the visitors will continue to arrive, whether local or foreign tourists,” the 49-year old vendor said. “We don’t want the restrictions to happen again, it was very hard for us.”
Henna tattoo artist Ian Kelly Gadores also told INQUIRER.net that while his earnings have yet to fully bounce back to their pre-pandemic level, his current earnings are not bad compared to what he was getting during the time that Boracay was nearly empty of visitors.
Gadores said he had a “good” revenue in December 2021, when more than 100,000 tourists arrived, according to the Boracay Tourism Office. He added that his income last January and February has been stable, but did not further elaborate.
“We are now able to pay our debts little by little,” he said.
He noted, however, that there used to be as many as 300 henna tattoo artists in Boracay before the pandemic struck. Now, he said, there are just about 30 left. “Only a few of us are left, because many of the henna tattoo artists are not from here,” he said, adding that those who wanted to return needed licenses to work as henna tattoo artists again.
Despite this setback, Gadores said he remained optimistic. “The situation will get better with the arrival of tourists, which made everyone here really happy. We hope this reopening will continue.”
Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said that positive developments were expected following the resumption of tourism and easing of restrictions in entering the island.
“We have always said that the resumption of travel and tourism in the country will greatly contribute to the jobs and livelihoods of Filipinos across the country,” Puyat told INQUIRER.net in a text message on Tuesday (Feb. 22).
“We look forward to sustaining this momentum,” she added.