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Philippine Resort Suffers from Hostage Crisis

  • Ira Mellman

Police and SWAT members assault a tourist bus to rescue hostages at Manila's Rizal Park Monday, 23 Aug 2010

Police and SWAT members assault a tourist bus to rescue hostages at Manila's Rizal Park Monday, 23 Aug 2010

Last month's hijacking in Manila of a bus carrying Hong Kong tourists has prompted many hotel cancellations across the Philippines. One popular resort island has been especially hard hit.

The turquoise waves continue to lap the still beautiful white sand beaches on the Philippine Island of Boracay, about 345 kilometers south of the capitol Manila.

But many of the beach chairs and chaise lounges are empty now after a former Philippine police officer hijacked a bus carrying tourists from Hong Kong in Manila on August 23. Eight of the tourists were killed.

The resultant publicity and a decision by the Hong Kong government to warn against travel to the Philippines has had a major effect on tourism to all of the country. Two days after the hostage taking, 800 room reservations were cancelled at Boracay hotels alone.

Last year, Boracay welcomed 650 thousand visitors. Tourists from China made up about 18 percent of that number. Morgan Wu is one of those who did make the trip from Taiwan.

"Actually I was a bit afraid of coming here," said Morgan Wu.

One MGM is one of the resorts reeling from the lack of customers. Tourists from China account for half of its business, those from Hong Kong about 7 percent. Edwin Raymundo is the hotel's general manager:

"Definitely there's an impact, as we have also a reservation in Manila office, and they're in charge of taking all these bookings, and they reported to me that there's some cancellation due to this incident," said Edwin Raymundo.

Raymundo says there are still some visitors trickling in from China, but business from Hong Kong has come to a complete halt.

"I pray that this incident will be finished, and it will not prolong so much," he said. "And relationship between our country and Hong Kong will be still there."

Some of the visitors say the reaction to the hostage incident has been overblown. Carlos Nazarino is an IT worker from Manila.

"It's really bad because, because of this one thing, because this one person did that thing - it affected so many people," said Carlos Nazarino.

Stephanie is a tourist from Germany:

"The Philippines is not a dangerous country," said Stephanie. "It's a nice country, very gentle people. But what happened, you know, is now in the spotlight and everybody's talking about it. But, something has to be changed I think."

Tourism authorities are trying to do just that, saying they will launch a massive advertising campaign to restore the image of the Philippines as well as offering budget promotions to lure back foreign visitors