Another Phuket? This One In The Philippines

Friday, July 16, 2010

Is it me or does it seem like every time a new tiki bar or hotel opens up on a Southeast Asian island, the inevitable, “The next Phuket” tag seems to creep in? Which begs the question: how many Phukets can there be, and do we really need or want more than one? This week the NY Times visited the island of Boracay in the Philippines, about 200 miles south of Manila (a one-hour flight), to check out the sudden influx of development and visitors to this once sleepy, backpacker hangout.

As they note, it didn’t used to be this way, but due to a recent push by the country’s tourism ministry, many of the Philippines’ scenic islands have been targeted for promotion and development, resulting in over 650,000 visitors last year alone, a 20% percent increase year-over-year. “In recent years [Boracay] has been making the leap from low-key tropical backwater to Southeast Asia’s newest hot spot. Even the Jungle Bar, which used to be squeezed in along the main walkway of White Beach, had to move this year after being priced out. It’s now in a desolate cove on the other side of the island — as close to Siberia as you can get on a slip of land about five miles long and a mile wide.”

Perhaps with good reason, what with all that the island has to offer, including the 3-mile-long White Beach and the island’s easily accessible coral reefs. It was probably only a matter of time before word was going to get out. However, as money comes in, backpackers and travelers are increasingly being left out, making way for luxury hotels and private vacation homes. “‘They’re going crazy on Boracay because they want it to become the next Thailand,’ said Margaux Palau, 34, a local diving and yoga instructor originally from Spain, referring to Thailand’s touristy shores. ‘Boracay is much nicer, if you ask me, but it’s also much farther for most people, which is why it’s still unknown.'”

And so the search continues, for that next Phuket: the Phuket that was, before it became the Phuket that is.

[Photo by benjieordonez/Flickr]

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