BACOLOD City – Visitors in Negros Occidental, including its capital Bacolod City, have boosted tourist arrivals in Western Visayas (Region 6), amid the six-month closure of Boracay Island in Aklan last year.

Department of Tourism (DOT) 6 Director Helen Catalbas said Thursday they have yet to release the final figures, but initial records showed the combined tourist arrivals of Negros Occidental and Bacolod City would surpass Aklan’s for 2018.

A decline of about one million tourists is expected in the region’s top island-destination due to the government’s rehabilitation efforts.

“We can no longer bring back the losses in tourist arrivals of Boracay,” said Catalbas, who was among the officials who attended the Negros First Transformative Agriculture Summit in Talisay City.

She said the slump in the tourist arrivals of Boracay Island does not necessarily mean that figures for the whole region will also decline.

In 2017, Negros Occidental and Bacolod City posted the second highest number of tourists in Western Visayas.

Based on DOT-6 figures, 5.85 million tourists visited the region in 2017, and Negros Occidental and Bacolod City’s combined tourist arrivals of 1.72 million accounted for 29 percent.

Negros Occidental alone had 892,199 arrivals, including 856,511 domestic visitors and 35,688 foreign tourists.

Bacolod registered 831,687 tourists, of whom 756,835 were domestic and 74,852 foreign guests.

Also in 2017, Aklan, which hosts Boracay Island, remained the region’s top tourist destination with about 2.22 million arrivals or 38 percent.

Iloilo province, including its capital Iloilo City, ranked third with almost 1.39 million visitors or 23 percent.

Capiz came in fourth with 229,195 tourists followed by Antique and Guimaras with 162,925 and 128,256, respectively.

Aklan is expected to recover this year, given its newly-rehabilitated island-destination considered to be more attractive to tourists. (PNA)