Philippines breaks tourism record in 2018 despite Boracay closure

Despite the closure of Boracay, the Philippines still welcomed a record 7.1 million tourists to its beaches and dive spots in 2018.
Despite the closure of Boracay, the Philippines still welcomed a record 7.1 million tourists to its beaches and dive spots in 2018.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines welcomed a record 7.1 million tourists to its beaches and dive spots in 2018, despite its most famous resort Boracay being shut half the year to recover, the authorities said on Thursday (Jan 24).

The archipelago nation of over 7,000 islands saw the number of visitors jump by nearly 8 per cent over the previous year, with South Koreans leading the way as its top tourists.

This growth came without much help from Boracay, which was closed for a cleanup from April to October after President Rodrigo Duterte branded it a "cesspool" fouled by reckless development.

Before the closure, the tiny island's white sand beaches and turquoise waters were seeing some two million sun worshippers a year.

"The challenging act of closing down Boracay... the country's top sun-and-beach destination has evidently become a blessing in disguise," said Philippine Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.

Other spots like natural paradise Palawan and beach destination Siargao island saw a jump in foreign tourists during the closure.

While South Korean led the pack with 1.6 million tourists, Chinese arrivals jumped by nearly 30 per cent over 2017 to hit 1.3 million, the Department of Tourism said.

Americans visitors to the former US colony were at one million.