AKLAN, Philippines – Boracay was once known as much for its powder white sand as it was for its nightlife, with its lively strip of bars and clubs right along the beach, a regular pub crawl, and of course “Laboracay” – the yearly liquor -soaked Labor Day pilgrimage of college kids and young professionals.
Until the island closed for rehabilitation in April 2018, it was not uncommon to walk along the beach at night and see people in varying states of intoxication descrating the white sand in all sorts of ways.
When Boracay reopened after the rehab in late 2018, the parties started again, though less chaotic and with new rules in place to protect the beach from drunken partygoers.
Now, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and Boracay is even quieter.
Bars and clubs on the island remain open as if in faint homage to the island’s party past, but dancing is still prohibited as part of pandemic safety measures. In general, the nights are quieter and more peaceful, and the island’s stakeholders are eyeing a new kind of clientele to ramp up tourism again.
Boracay closed off to tourists in the early months of the pandemic, but it reopened to domestic tourists in October 2020. Since then, more and more family groups are coming to the island according to Christine Mansinares, regional director for the Department of Tourism Region VI.
“Sa travelers natin, mostly, before mga young professionals. Ngayon, andyan pa naman sila. Sa ating demographics, yung 29 to 50 years old, sila pa rin yung pinakamalaki in terms of number sa ating tourist arrivals. Pero ngayon, nakikita natin na there’s also a need for family to bond after a long time na makakalabas ying mga kids,” she told reporters at a Philippine Airlines event on Wednesday, March 16.
(Among our travelers, before they’d mostly be young professionals. Now, they’re still there. In our demographics, most tourist arrivals still fall within the 29 to 50 years old bracket. But now, we’re seeing that there’s a need for family to bond after a long time, and the kids are able to go out.)
Christine shared that the number of nights that tourists stay has increased, because kids are able to do their classes remotely with their parents.
Many classic Boracay activities are still available: paddleboarding, parasailing, helmet diving, island hopping. Keeping with the family-friendly health-and-wellness theme, the island now also offers bike tours, which take tourists to lesser-known spots around Boracay.
In an echo of the once popular Boracay pub crawl, there is now also a food crawl in the works, anchored on the island’s thriving food scene.
Establishments are now also adding family-friendly touches to their own offerings. More restaurants now have kids’ menus, while accommodations offer art lessons for little ones. More vendors along the shore now sell beach toys on top of their usual wars.
“Sa observation ko (in my observation), they’re looking for a space to recharge,” Christine said, referring to their tourists.
As she pointed out, people have been craving the outdoors after long periods of being locked down indoors.
“Ngayon kasi we need open spaces to help us redeem the health that we had prior to the pandemic na nakapaglalakad tayo, we’re exposed to the sun, we can breathe fresh air. Yun ang vinavalue ng ating mga families na bumibisita sa island, yung healing properties talaga na innate sa beachshe said.
(Now, we need open space to help us redeem the heath that we had prior to the pandemic, that we are able to walk, we’re exposed to the sun, we can breathe fresh air. That’s what the families who visit the island value, the healing properties that are really innate to the beach.)
With Boracay’s famous White Beach cleaner than it’s been in years, and both tourists and locals inclined to keep it that way, the beloved destination is primed for quite the comeback. Boracay continues to heal, and now, it seems, its visitors can too. – Rappler.com