Several years ago I was lucky enough to travel to one of the best beaches in the world, Boracay island, located in the Philipines. I remember thinking it was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen, with its crystal blue waters, white sand and palm trees dotting the shoreline. But, there was one thing I couldn’t ignore - the crowds.
It was clear to me that Boracay's beauty was certainly no undiscovered gem any longer. According to recent stats, the island beach could see up to 40,000 sun worshippers at peak times. With such high traffic on such a small footprint of land and poor infrastructure to manage waste and pollution, it would only be a matter of time until things really got out of hand and that natural beauty to could start to fade away.
Back in April of this year, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the island to be shut down indefinitely until the island could be restored. Years of unrestrained mass tourism had taken its toll on Boracay and it was time something had to be done. His objective was to fortify the weak infrastructure, and crack down on the rampant overdevelopment that had left it, what he termed, a "cesspool". The plan would cost a whopping an estimated billion dollars!
Over the course of six months, the government implemented a major overhaul to restore Boracay. Buildings were torn down to create a 30m easement from the waterline and many hotels were shut down altogether. A new sewage system to manage waste and new roads to improve congestion were added, and a host of new rules to protect the island were laid down.
On October 26th, the Philippines reopened its crown jewel island to holidaymakers. Under the new rules, a maximum of 19,200 tourists will be allowed on the island at any one time, and the government aims to enforce this by controlling the number of available hotel rooms. Beach parties will be a thing of the past, and no booze or smoking is permitted on the beach. All watersports except for swimming are banned, three casinos have been permanently shut down, and ferries and airlines have been instructed to reduce service to the island.
The difference six months can make is really astonishing. We are so happy to see the government taking action to protect their land, even if it results in a drastic drop in tourism revenue for the country. Protecting and preserving the beauty of this island is a major environmental win, and we can only hope other tourist-heavy beaches and islands take note.
If you plan on visiting Boracay, be sure to check out our favorite online guide at Boracay Compass where you can get in-depth insider tips and information about the island.
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