ILOILO CITY, Philippines—Resorts and hotels on Boracay Island have been hit by booking cancellations by tourists from China amid the ongoing standoff over the Scarborough Shoal.
The Department of Tourism in Western Visayas (DoT-6) has monitored cancellations of bookings for at least 65 rooms in four hotels on the island-resort since Friday, Tourism regional director Helen Catalbas told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview on Sunday.
The reservations were mostly group bookings for packages for two-night/three-day stay and three-night/four-day stay.
China earlier suspended travel tours to the Philippines following the ongoing standoff over the disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The suspension of travel tours from China prompted Air Philippines to suspend chartered flights between the Kalibo International Airport and Shanghai and Beijing.
Catalbas said the thrice-weekly flights to and from the two Chinese cities were suspended starting Friday.
“We hope this is going to be temporary and the dispute will be resolved through diplomatic means soon,” Catalbas said.
While China is the country’s fourth-biggest tourism market, it is the third-biggest market for foreign tourists in Western Visayas following Korea and the United States.
Last year, around 71,600 tourists from China visited Western Visayas, or an average of 6,000 tourists monthly. Of this number, 69,000 went to Boracay, Catalbas said.
Henry Chusuey, chairman of the Boracay Foundation Inc. (BFI), a group of business operators on the island, said the cancelations constituted 15 to 20 percent of expected tourist arrivals on the island.
He said the hardest hit would be hotels and resorts that relied on tourists from China constituting up to 60 percent of their bookings.
“It will mean lesser revenues for us but we cannot blame our government. We just have to work harder to attract tourists from other countries,” Chusuey, a Filipino of Chinese descent who owns the Boracay Regency group of hotels, said in a telephone interview on Sunday.
He said it was “important to show tourists from China that they are still welcome here despite the suspension of tour packages from their country.”
Tourists from China not traveling in tour packages have continued to come in, he said.
The DoT-6 is focusing on increasing its promotional efforts in other tourism markets especially Korea to offset the impact of the decline in tourists from China.
Catalbas said they would come out with promotional flyers and pamphlets in Korean language to cater directly to this market.
Tourist arrivals in Boracay were also affected due to cancellations in bookings of tourists from China and Hong Kong after the bloody Aug. 23, 2011, hostage-taking incident in Manila where eight Hong Kong tourists died in a botched police rescue attempt.
But the slack in tourists from the two countries were covered by local tourists and those from other countries.