Philippine tourist island scrambles as shutdown looms | 2018-04-06 |

Philippine tourist island scrambles as shutdown looms

AFP     6th April, 2018 06:35:30 printer

Philippine tourist island scrambles as shutdown looms

The Philippines' tourism industry scrambled Friday to manage the fallout from the temporary shutdown of its world-famous Boracay island, which threw into chaos trips planned by hundreds of thousands of tourists. 

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the once-idyllic white-sand resort closed to tourists for up to six months from April 26, after calling the country's top tourist draw a "cesspool" tainted by raw sewage. 

Hundreds of Boracay hotels, as well as restaurants, tour operators and business establishments were on Friday undertaking the daunting process of unwinding bookings for rooms, flights, weddings and other events and facilities. 

"Some people are cursing us... it's nasty," Hotel Sales and Marketing Association president Christine Ibarreta told AFP. 

"I hope (there will be) no mess and no chaos," she added. "We just want it to be orderly." 

Ibarreta said "hundreds of thousands" of bookings made as far as two years in advance -- potentially worth millions of dollars for hotels and other tourism services -- would have to be either cancelled and refunded, or rebooked. 

"Some people are okay but some people cannot understand," tour operator Clang Garcia told AFP, adding clients are typically offered a refund or an alternate destination "to save the account". 

Domingo Enerio, the retired former head of the government's Tourism Promotions Board, said some of the cancelled bookings contained non-refundable conditions and would have to be renegotiated or credited for future use. 

Under the government plan police, or even soldiers, will be deployed to keep away tourists from the tiny central Philippine island, while residents will be issued special identification cards to ensure continued access while Boracay is rehabilitated. 

Domestic airlines announced on Thursday they would scale back the number of flights to the jumping-off point for the 1,000-hectare (2,470-acre) island.