The Philippines re-opens its crown jewel resort island Boracay to holidaymakers on Friday, after a six-month clean up aimed at repairing the damage inflicted by years of unrestrained mass tourism.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the island shuttered in April for a major effort to fortify weak infrastructure and crack down on the rampant overdevelopment that had left it, what he termed, a “cesspool”.
When the government throws open the doors, Boracay will have fewer hotels and restaurants, a cap on the number of visitors and anti-beach boozing rules aimed at taming its party-hard reputation.
All of this is intended to protect the bruised beauty of the island’s turquoise waters and expanses of white sand beaches which were being loved to death by two million tourists per year.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she hopes the new Boracay will be the start of a “culture of sustainable tourism” in the Philippines, adding other tourist destinations will be next.
“It means taking account of the repercussions of our actions on current and future situations of the environment,” she told reporters on Friday.
Romulo-Puyat said she has sent a written “warning” to other top Philippine tourist draws including El Nido and Panglao islands, while others, such as the whale-shark-feeding site of Oslob have cut its tourist arrivals by half.
Boracay, which major tourist magazines consistently rate as among the world’s best beaches, is a mere 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres).