Tourism activity in El Nido has gradually picked up, as the popular destination town opened up to domestic tourists.
Sharmaine Nur, El Nido’s tourism officer, told Palawan News some 100 tourism-related establishments – accommodations, travel agencies, restaurants, and dive shops – have so far reopened, after shutting down in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Currently, an average of 27 to 30 boats doing island hoppings tours daily.
“Given the circumstances, I think this is a very good number already. We have an average of 27, sabihin natin na 30 boats doing island hopping every day, that’s also a significant number. For a boat, say we have five crew then we have another tour guide, that’s probably six persons and 30 boats per day, we have 180 people na may trabaho every day for island hopping,” Nur said.
“Wala pa ‘yong mga nag-o-operate ng hotel, tricycle driver, wala pa ‘yong nasa souvenir shop o dive shop. So, I think it’s helpful. I think even if you go around El Nido and try to ask especially itong mga open na establishment, they would say na meron na rin progress,” she added.
The increased number of visitors to the town also aided the return of workers and businesses to the tourism industry. El Nido had the most tourist arrivals in November, with 2,940 visitors, 65 percent of whom were domestic travelers and 35 percent were residents of the province, and is aiming for 6,000 visitors in December.
With the gradual reopening of the industry, the local government also sees an increase in revenues, Nur said.
She stated that a database of tourism workers returning to the business is still being developed.
She also said there were fewer than 10 tourism-dependent establishments that permanently closed in the town in 2020.
Nur noted that some workers and business owners are apprehensive to return to the tourism industry due to the unclear return on investment from operating expenditures during this pandemic.
“I would say na meron na talagang mga bumalik pero meron kasi nag-decide na hindi muna mag-open because karamihan ng reason na binabanggit nila ay mas mahal ang operational cost versus sa nakikita nila na return o ‘yong profit. Baka mas mahirapan lang sila mag-maintain especially ‘yong resorts na malalaki, lalo na ‘yong may malalaking operational cost,” she explained.
She went on to say that El Nido’s biggest income was P90 million, but in 2020 and 2021, they didn’t even make P1 million.
“Ang mangyayari sa El Nido ay marami ang mag-open, kasi when that happens ibig sabihin mas marami ang magkakaroon ng trabaho, makakabalik sa mga employment responsibilities, status nila. Malaki ang mage-generate ng local government sa turismo in terms of syempre revenue, eco-tourism development fee, isa rin ‘yon sa pinakamalaking income ng LGU,” she said, adding that his income will help in operating enforcements and services.
“Of course, kapag may pera ang LGU, maibalik ang dating enforcements, manning, dating services kasi even us at the municipal tourism office, we had to cut some employees because wala na rin kami isu-sweldo. That would also mean the same thing for 2022 kasi 2021 is not very helpful in terms of revenue since the Delta variant arrived this year. We are expecting na we are going to cut more people for 2022,” she added.