Boracay is a small island in Central Philippines located about 196 miles south of Manila. It is known for its resorts, powdery white beaches and “you can see your feet” clear water. The 2.5 mile White Beach along the west coast, which is the main tourism beach, is backed by gorgeous palm trees and lined with resorts, hotels and restaurants. The east coast boasts strong winds that make the beach on this side, Bulabog Beach, (the second most popular tourism beach on Boracay Island) perfect for water sports like windsurfing and kiteboarding. Boracay is also where one gets to enjoy diverse marine life due to the abundance of coral reefs and shipwrecks.
Boracay was largely an agricultural community until the 1900s when husband and wife Sofia Gonzales Tirol and Lamberto Hontiveros Tirol took ownership of substantial properties in the island and planted coconut and fruit trees. The cultivation and development of the island after the Tirol’s inhabited the island changed the main industry in Boracay. Fishing and production of copra (dried meat or kernel of the coconut used to produce coconut oil) became the major industries on the island. However, due to over harvesting by fishermen and the destruction of the coral reef, the fishing industry saw a decline. This was followed by the decline of the price of copra. This perfect storm encouraged tourism to be a vial alternative source of income for the island by the 1980s.
Tourism came to Boracay sometime in the 1970s. It was precipitated when a movie shot in the island was released in the US and when a German writer wrote about Boracay and referred to the island as the “Paradise on Earth” making the island a popular destination for tourists especially backpackers. Because Boracay beaches started to be known and acclaimed as the best in the world, the tourism industry boomed. In 2017 it was reported that there were 2.1 million tourists who visited Boracay who spent more than $1B while on the island.
Unfortunately because of its growing popularity, Boracay is now faced with challenges that come with growth: traffic congestion, pollution, illegal construction, illegal fishing and insufficient waste management. In February this year, Boracay was closed to tourists so it could work on its issues, clean up and rehabilitate.
After more than six months of being closed, the Philippine Department of Tourism recently announced that the island is scheduled to reopen this fall. A better and more sustainable Boracay will be ready to welcome visitors again by mid-October. However, the Department of Tourism wanted to manage expectations and clearly stated that October will be a “soft opening” with a full rehabilitation of the island expected to be complete by end of 2019.
Besides all the physical changes Boracay is undergoing, it is also cleaning up its act. The “no smoking and no drinking” rule on the beach will be strictly enforced. Despite earlier reports, no casinos will be approved and will be allowed to open on the island. The Department of Tourism will also limit the number of flights in and out of the island to control the number of people in the island at any one time. The party culture will definitely be off the table so gone are the days celebrating certain holidays and events that draw 60,000 – 70,000 visitors in a weekend!
Although Boracay is slated to open in October it might be wise to not rush with booking your tickets just yet. The new Boracay opening this Fall will definitely not be what Boracay used to be. It might be best to wait until end of 2019 when the fully rehabilitated Boracay is slated to be completely open and be fully ready for business!