Philippine tourism likely to be hit hard by eruption

Ashfall in Tagaytay City, in the Philippine province of Cavite, yesterday after the eruption of the Taal volcano. Schools and government offices near the volcano were closed, and thousands were evacuated. PHOTO: REUTERS
Ashfall in Tagaytay City, in the Philippine province of Cavite, yesterday after the eruption of the Taal volcano. Schools and government offices near the volcano were closed, and thousands were evacuated. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA • It is the peak of the tourist season in the Philippines, and a volcano erupting about 65km south of Manila could not have come at a worse time.

The country recently reopened Boracay, ranked by Conde Nast Traveller as Asia's "best island".

Some of the Philippines' most popular cultural events are scheduled for this week. Even American comedian Dave Chappelle is planning to perform for two nights in the capital.

The authorities said on Sunday that there was an imminent threat of a hazardous eruption of the Taal volcano, which is rumbling and spewing ash and smoke.

Schools and government offices near the volcano were closed, and more than 25,000 people had been taken to 75 evacuation centres.

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila had suspended all flights on Sunday as ash began accumulating on ramps and runways, said airport officials. Partial flight operations resumed late yesterday morning.

January has typically been the most popular month for Philippine tourism as the rainy season winds down at the end of the year.

There were 732,506 visitors in January 2018, more than any other month. A similar number of travellers came in January last year.

The eruption also hit just weeks after homes in Boracay were damaged by Typhoon Phanfone, which struck right before Christmas.

 
 
 

The resort island, known for its powdery white sand, was shut down for months for a government clean-up before gradually reopening to the public about a year ago.

Cebu, in the central Philippines, is scheduled to hold Sinulog, an annual religious and cultural dance parade, at the end of the week. Organisers billed it as the country's biggest cultural event that draws millions of visitors.

With the economy in danger of notching its slowest expansion since 2011, attracting tourists is a key focus of efforts to boost growth.

Tourism accounted for 12.7 per cent of the Philippines' gross domestic product in 2018.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2020, with the headline 'Philippine tourism likely to be hit hard by eruption'. Print Edition | Subscribe