Boracay reopened – cleaner, quieter and more sustainable?

Boracay, just voted again to be one of the top 5 islands in Asia by Conde Nast Traveler, reopened on October 26, 2018 as scheduled. The island was closed to visitors for 6 months by the order of the Filipino president to clean up the consequences of over-tourism. So, what was accomplished in this time, how has Boracay changed and what do you need to know before you visit? Find the improvements and the list of Boracay’s accredited hotels below!

From local reports, it sounds like the government and local tourism providers worked hard to improve Boracay over the last six months. The shut-down was triggered when it was discovered that hundreds of businesses didn’t have proper sewage systems, draining untreated sewage into the ocean. Hundreds of businesses were shut down and structures have been torn down across the island. The sewage and drainage system was upgraded to handle the islands population and guests. And the new system appears to be working – the government reported coliform levels of 3MPN (against a standard of 100MPN).
Along the way, the main road running along the island was widened and improved with sidewalks. While the island reopened for visitors on schedule, some of these road improvement works are still ongoing. 

Vendors and businesses had also encroached on the beaches and hundreds of structures were torn down that were too close to the shore line, restoring the beaches to more of their natural beauty and a width of 30 meters. Visitors will be able to enjoy more of the famous white sand!

The government also established more stringent requirements and rules to operate on Boracay. Beach vendors, massage therapists and even the famous sandcastle builders and fire dancers have been permanently banned from the beaches. About 400 hotels and restaurants that couldn’t meet the new requirements have been permanently shuttered. 
Only 6,405 tourists will be allowed to enter Boracay each day and the total number of tourists on the island will be limited to 19,200 in total – that’s a fraction of what it used to be on holiday weekends. So far, only 157 hotels with 5,677 rooms have met the new, stringent requirements and have been accredited to operate (see the list below). Apparently, the police is planning to enforce the rules going forward and require tourists to show a booking with an accredited hotel before being allowed to take the ferry to Boracay!
Newspapers have reported that 470 hotels with 7,985 rooms were ready – an obvious conflict, so apparently some are still working hard to get their government permits issued! I contacted one of the most famous resorts not on the list, Friday’s Boracay, and they for example have been accredited, but are still waiting for their certificate and addition to the list!

In addition, multi-day fiestas, like La Boracay, as well as drinking and smoking on the beach have been permanently banned. Vendors will no longer be allowed to roam the beach and will have to offer their wares in designated market areas. All of that will make for a much quieter, more peaceful beach vacation – it looks like Boracay’s reputation as a party island is coming to a sudden end!
Many water activities, like jet skis or popular sunset boat rides are temporary restricted and will be re-introduced with tighter operating guidelines. 

From the initial reports, it looks like the joint task force to clean up Boracay has achieved more than I would have expected in the short time. Improvements to the sewage system and only road along the island were as much overdue as an enforcement of existing environmental rules to keep the beaches clear. Typically, the local government has not been very good at enforcing existing rules and it remains to be seen, how well they will enforce these rules going forward – or how often they will look the other way for a small “fine”…

I hope Boracay will enforce the new rules and operate to higher standards. It’s one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and deserves to be maintained as the sustainable paradise it is for future visitors.
While that will make for dream vacations to come, it also will mean higher prices in the future. Boracay already was one of the most expensive beach destinations in the Philippines and the cap on visitors and restriction on hotel rooms will mean limited supply for an ever-growing demand and rising prices. Boracay is likely to become a more exclusive beach destination – good news for the wealthy, not so good for the rest…

I’m excited about the changes, the protection of natural beauty and the efforts to build sustainable tourism. I will visit Boracay as soon as I’ll get a chance. 
If you plan to go, make sure to first book your room with one of the accredited hotels below. You can find current prices here! Then book your flight and have your documents ready when you go, so you can enjoy a peaceful beach vacation in paradise!

I contacted some of the resorts not on the list and they have been accredited, but are waiting for their certificate and inclusion on the list. You can find any updated lists post publishing of this post here!

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