ILOILO CITY, Philippines—The Department of Tourism (DOT) is turning to other markets to fill hotel rooms on Boracay Island that have been left empty by cancellations of Taiwanese bookings, coming as fallout from a diplomatic row between Taiwan and the Philippines over the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Filipino coast guards two weeks ago.
Budget airline Zest Airways (Zest Air) also needs to look for other markets, as the cancellations from Taiwan have forced it to suspend its daily charter flights between Kalibo town in Aklan province and Taipei.
Butch Rodriguez, Zest Air senior vice president for commercial and external affairs, said in a statement issued on Wednesday that the suspension began on Monday on the request of the airline’s charter agent in Taiwan.
Rodriguez said the agent cited the controversy between Taiwan and the Philippines as the reason for the cancellation of tours to Boracay.
Helen Catalbas, DOT regional director, said that while Taiwan was among the top tourist markets of Boracay, Korea and China were also big markets that could cushion if not offset the loss of traffic from Taiwan.
Hotels and resorts on the world-famous resort-island have reported cancellations since last week after Taiwan suspended tourist travel to the Philippines as part of retaliatory measures for the fatal shooting of fisherman Hung Shih-chen, 65, by Filipino coast guards in waters off Balintang Island in northern Philippines on May 9.
Manila and Taipei, however, have agreed to cooperate in the investigation of the incident.
Taiwan is Boracay’s second-biggest foreign tourist market.
In 2012, 92,209 Taiwanese tourists visited Boracay, coming second in numbers to the Koreans, 156,445 of whom spent holidays on the island.
China was the third-biggest market, which generated traffic of 82,358 tourists to Boracay in 2012.
Tim Ticar, officer in charge of the DOT office on Boracay, said one hotel on the island had reported cancellations from May to July involving 296 guests and 187 rooms.
Besides Zest Air, Philippine Airlines and China Airlines have also stopped chartered flights to Kalibo, the jump-off point to Boracay.
Catalbas said seven flights of China Airlines from May 22 to June 30, 18 flights of Philippine Airlines from May 20 to June 30, and 18 flights of Zest Air from May 20 to June 30 had been canceled.
She said only two Taiwanese tourists were recorded at the jetty in Caticlan.
Catalbas said the DOT would step up promotions in Korea, China, Japan and Russia to make up for the lost traffic from Taiwan.
She said the domestic market, which contributed 57 percent to the 1.2-million-visitor traffic to Boracay last year, could also help fill the gap created by the cancellations from Taiwan.—With a report from Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao
Originally posted at 06:27 pm | Thursday, May 23, 2013