DOT links drop in Boracay foreign arrivals to fewer flights

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The Department of Tourism in Western Visayas (DOT-6) has attributed the decline in foreign tourist arrivals on Boracay Island to a reduction in direct international flights to Aklan’s two main airports.

“There were cuts in international flights to Aklan. Starting in July, we observed a reduction in foreign arrivals from South Korea since we no longer have direct flights from Jeju in South Korea. They transferred to Bohol,” said DOT-6 Assistant Regional Director Phoebe Zelie C. Areño.

Areño elaborated that, unlike Kalibo International Airport and Caticlan (Godofredo P. Ramos) Airport, the Bohol–Panglao International Airport offers direct access to Bohol Island, making it a more convenient destination for tourists.

“It is direct, and there is no need for foreign tourists to transfer to the island, which brings accessibility for them,” she explained.

“The access to the destinations and the beach area that they want to visit is faster,” Areño added.

According to data from the Malay Tourism Office, Boracay welcomed 214,754 foreign tourists from January to June 2023.

In the same period this year, the island saw 232,865 foreign tourists, with a peak in January and February averaging at least 50,000.

However, the island’s foreign arrivals slowed in April with 35,569 visitors, followed by 29,325 in May and only 23,566 in June.

The DOT-6 official said the matter has been discussed with the local government unit (LGU) of Malay town and the province of Aklan.

The Tourism Attaché of South Korea was also present during the meeting.

Korea is the top source of foreign tourist arrivals, accounting for 199,114 of the arrivals in Western Visayas, based on DOT-6 data.

The DOT-6 said they are enhancing product offerings to entice foreign nationals and regain pre-pandemic tourist numbers.

“We are also helping the LGU streamline payments for island access,” Areño added.

Considering the various touch points going to Boracay Island, the DOT-6 urged the Malay LGU to digitize the collection of fees for the island.

“We hope these measures will help us win back tourists by providing easy access to our destination,” she said.

The provincial government of Aklan previously announced a program called Digital Aklan 2024, aiming for a comprehensive digitalization initiative across all 17 towns in collaboration with the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

With the rising cost of goods and services, Areño mentioned ongoing discussions with the LGU and private stakeholders in Boracay to control and monitor prices for accommodation, food, and transport.

“We hope these issues will be addressed to enhance the competitiveness of our island compared to other destinations,” she said.

In 2023, Aklan recorded the highest number of tourist arrivals, with 2.2 million visitors, of which 2.12 million were to Boracay Island alone.

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