President Duterte’s order to close Boracay Island to tourist traffic on April 26 so it can undergo rehabilitation has sent local government officials from other tourist spots around the country rushing to clean up their sites.
With teams from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) criss-crossing popular seaside resorts, stakeholders in these places have taken steps to bring them into compliance with environmental and tourism regulations.
They don’t want to end up in the President’s or DENR’s crosshairs and suffer the same fate as Boracay.
A shutdown or halt to operations, however long, would be financially disastrous for economic operators in the region and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods.
For incumbent local elected officials, sluggish business activity and high unemployment do not make for good politics, especially as the 2019 local elections are fast approaching.
The rehabilitation of Boracay and the voluntary cleanup undertaken in other tourist sites has drawn attention to the question of the “carrying capacity” of these areas.
“Tourist carrying capacity” is defined by the World Tourism Organization as “the maximum number of people who can visit a tourist destination at the same time, without causing destruction of the physical, economic, socio-cultural environment and an unacceptable reduction in the quality of the environment”. visitor satisfaction.
In simple terms, it is the number of tourists, infrastructure and management staff that a tourist site can accommodate without degrading its natural beauty and at the same time living up to the expectations of tourists.
Two elements are involved in this issue, namely the number of tourists that can be accommodated at a certain time and the length of their stay.
How much is too much?
The carrying capacity of tourist sites varies according to, among other things, their geographical location, socio-cultural characteristics, accessibility and the period of attraction.
In the latter case, for example, the resorts of Bohol attract customers almost all year round because they are not in the typhoon belt, while those in other parts of the country are only good to visit during the season. dry (or summer).
According to Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, Boracay’s visitor numbers in recent years have reached 75,000, well above its earlier reported carrying capacity of 25,000 people.
She said when Boracay reopens to tourist traffic after its rehabilitation, visitor entry will be regulated to ensure the island’s acceptable carrying capacity is met.
The international tourism industry has generally accepted guidelines or formulas for determining carrying capacity. There is no single checklist for this activity.
The bottom line in any case is that the natural features of the tourist area, or the things that attract visitors to it, should be preserved for the benefit of its residents and people who may in the future want to visit and enjoy its sites. .
Determining the carrying capacity of local tourist sites is not rocket science. This is something that local tourism officials can easily find based on their experience and records of tourist arrivals.
It is the implementation or application of the load capacity that can cause problems. It will take a lot of political will on the part of local elected officials and players in tourist areas to achieve this.
Resort and hotel operators will not look kindly on efforts to restrict the entry of tourists during a tourism boom.
Every arriving tourist represents money in the bank and no businessman worth his salt would chase him away even if his presence exceeds the site’s carrying capacity. Application would be more difficult if local authorities or their relatives own or co-own tourist facilities in these areas.
And even if there is no conflict of interest, they may not be inclined to support a carrying capacity policy because of the potential negative political consequences that may arise from losing their constituents’ jobs.
The DENR has a lot on the board on the question of the reception capacity of our tourist sites.
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