MANILA, July 8 (Mabuhay) — A lawmaker on Thursday lauded the increase of foreign arrivals in Boracay Island as a good sign of economic recovery not only for the Aklan province but also for the country.

Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. cited a report from the municipal tourism office of Malay in Aklan showing that there has been a constant influx of foreign tourists on the island indicated by a 69-percent increase.

The tourism office recorded 6,873 tourists in June, up from 4,268 in May, 4,737 in April, and 2,533 in March.

“The revival of the tourism industry, especially of famed destinations like Boracay Island, will be key to providing more local jobs and boosting our economic recovery,” Haresco said.

He noted that the tourism industry contributed about 12.8 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.

Haresco, however, said international travel restrictions imposed because of the pandemic have greatly reduced the sector’s contribution to 5.4 percent in 2020.

He said employment in tourism industries was estimated at 4.68 million in 2020, or 11.9 percent of total employment, which, he said, was the “lowest contribution of the tourism sector in our GDP” after tourism employment dropped from 5.72 million in 2019.

“After enduring two years of travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, Boracay Island has allowed local tourists to enter in September 2021, and foreign tourists in February 2022, contributing to the early recovery of the economy,” Haresco said.

The bulk of foreign arrivals came from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Singapore, and Korea. Domestic tourism also contributed to the tourism boom with the number of visitors in March soaring to 111,022 compared to 80,095 in February.

“The challenge for us now is to continue to strictly enforce health and safety protocols to protect both locals and tourists from Covid-19 while keeping holistic and comprehensive efforts to expand tourism recovery and build back the economy better,” he said.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco, meanwhile, said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s directive for the agency was to become one of the “major economic contributors” to help the country recover from the effects of the pandemic in the past few years.

“We must not only continue to do the work that we have been doing, but we must exert extra effort to give everything that we can within what is humanly possible,” she said.

Tourism was among the hardest hit industries at the height of the pandemic.

In addition to crafting national policy, she said the DOT would be “in touch with the realities on the ground” and give attention to tourism sites, peoples, and products that “have not necessarily been given equal opportunity.”

“All of our partners in the local government units in the 81 provinces, over 140 cities, and over 1,400 municipalities across the Philippines, to extend to them the hand of collaboration from the DOT, and to send across the message that we are here to help the industry arise and recover,” she said. (MNS)

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