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Asia Minute: Philippines: Shrinking Tourism on Purpose

Alexey Komarov
Wikimedia Commons

The Hawaii Tourism Authority says August was another positive month for visitors to the state, although growth came at a slower pace than earlier this year. Elsewhere in the Pacific, there’s a tourist destination that will soon re-open – after the government shut it down for six months because of the wear and tear of too many visitors.

The government of the Philippines is three weeks away from re-opening one of its most popular beach resorts — with a daily limit on the number of visitors.

Nearly two million people packed the beaches of Boracay Island last year. This year, those numbers will drop dramatically, and that’s just fine with the national government.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the resort island to be cleared of visitors and closed to tourists starting in April. The idea: to address infrastructure and environmental problems that led Duterte to compare the island to a “cesspool.”

That decision carried a big short-term economic impact, Reuters quotes figures showing that Boracay brings in more than a billion dollars in tourism revenue each year.

And when the Philippine national economy grew more slowly than expected in the second quarter, the country’s secretary of economic planning said the shutdown of the island was one factor.

Still, this longer-term experiment in shrinking tourism will continue.

Credit Joannerfabregas / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

This week, an official from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that when the island re-opens for business later this month, the daily number of tourists will be limited to only 19,000 — a fraction of the previous level.

And while there are some 12,000 hotel rooms on the island — only about half of them will be allowed to be open each day.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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