View of the El Nido town center and Bacuit Bay from a cliff. (PN photo)
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The tourist town of El Nido experienced the largest number of arrivals during pandemic time in November this year, following the relaxation of travel restrictions and increased marketing activities, with the local administration aiming to reach 6,000 arrivals in December.

Sharmaine Nur, municipal tourism officer, said 2,490 tourists visited El Nido in November, with domestic passengers accounting for 65 percent of the total. It followed October’s arrival of 1,500 tourists, she added.

In 2020, the municipality known for its picturesque limestone cliffs and island destinations, recorded less than 1,000 in the same month, she said.

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El Nido Municipal Tourism Office. (PN file photo)

“That’s the biggest number we have recorded. I would say, na since we re-opened noong July and September 2020, this month, November ‘yong pinakamarami nating arrivals. That’s around 2,500 nga and we also recorded a total of 833 na nag-island hopping so that’s an average of 27 boats per day,” Nur explained.

“With reference to the previous months, okay naman, progressive naman. Bumubuti siya, umiigi. Iyon ang pattern na nakikita namin,” she said.

Nur said the situation for El Nido is getting better now that restrictions because of the coronavirus disease have been eased.

In November this year, Mayor Edna Gacot-Lim signed an executive order removing the requirement for fully vaccinated travelers to have negative RT PCR tests. She claimed that this is aiding the town’s efforts to reclaim its tourism economy.

“Ang malaking contribution talaga diyan ay ang pagluwag talaga ng travel requirement. With that easing ng guidelines, we are expecting and praying really na dumami ang tourist arrival ng El Nido,” she added.

Despite the fact that the numbers are still low in comparison to pre-pandemic arrivals, the records are regarded progressive when compared to previous months during the pandemic.

While they are aiming for 6,000 arrivals in December, this is a far cry from the average of 33,000 hits in the same month prior to COVID, she said.

Apart from easing travel restrictions, the El Nido exhibition in Puerto Princesa also assisted in securing bookings from outside Palawan.

Tourists going to El Nido were observed doing the usual island hopping and visiting mainland beaches such as Las Cabañas, Nacpan, and Duli.

The key markets presently, according to Nur, are Europeans and Americans who arrive over the holiday season, as well as domestic passengers who arrive in March and April.

She stated that they anticipate a spike in visitor arrivals in December and January and that she hopes this trend will continue from February to May.

Records show that most of the tourists are coming from the Luzon area, particularly in National Capital Region (NCR).

“Kaya sa El Nido, ramdam na ramdam talaga kapag nagkakaroon ng travel restrictions from NCR. Halos nauubos din talaga ang arrivals dito, naiiwan na lang ay fellow Palaweños natin from Puerto Princesa na usually pumupunta sa El Nido over the long weekend,” she said.

El Nido debuted its Phase III re-opening in July 2021, she said, and is more open to local tourists by not limiting their areas of origin.

She claims that the tourism bubble scheme, also known as the point-to-point policy, is still in use, but only by a few island resorts. The Department of Tourism (DOT) has developed a web portal, Tourlista, where resorts can list their tourist arrivals. The Municipal Tourism Office (MTO) also has access.

“Wala kaming nili-limit na kung saan sila mas manggagaling. We are actually looking forward na ma-open ang ating international borders but that also really just depends on the national government and their decision kung kalian nila i-open ang international border,” she said.

Nur said that, while they have begun the progressive opening of tourism, they are concerned about the threat posed by the new Omicron variant and would adhere to the national government’s travel restrictions.

“If that is as strong as Delta, or anything stronger than Delta. It could hinder the progress we’re making. That’s a sad reality if it’s going to happen. Although we are checking with Omicron, parang hindi pa sila nakakapasok, wala pa official release if it’s as strong or stronger than Delta,” she said.

Because El Nido is increasingly reliant on domestic visitors, Nur said they aim to expand into Cebu and the rest of the Visayas.

The municipal tourism office also expressed optimism that the reopening of AirSWIFT’s Cebu to El Nido route would assist the town to attract more visitors.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.