Chinese tourists now make up the biggest contingent of foreign visitors to the white sands of Boracay Island.
For the first time, travellers from the People’s Republic have overtaken South Koreans in visitor numbers. Last year, 375,284 Chinese tourists paid a visit, followed by 356,644 Koreans and 40,802 Taiwanese. This data was released by the Malay municipal tourism office.
The other top foreign visitors to Boracay were American (22,648), Malaysian (20,585), British (17,416), Saudi Arabian (15,944), Australian (15,365), Russian (14,074) and Singaporean (9,897).
Total arrivals to the island hit a new record last year reaching 2,001,974, which was up 16 per cent on 2016.
Of these, 1,052,975 were foreigners and 906,939 were domestic tourists. The number of overseas-based Filipinos was given as 42,060.
Tourism Western Visayas director Helen Catalbas said tourist numbers had been boosted by more tour groups, cruise ship visits and direct flights to airports in Malay and Kalibo.
She added that there were now direct flights between the Kalibo Airport and eight airports in China.
However, the rising numbers of tourists are sparking concerns over congestion.
Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores has said another port at the northern end of the island is being considered to ease the crowding at Cagban port. The proposal is still being studied by the Malay municipal government.
There have also been calls for better controls over the development of Boracay. Last month, for example, we reported on plans to build a $500 million casino resort on the island.
There are also growing concerns over increasing flooding, traffic congestion litter and pollution.
Last week, Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo of the Department of Tourism and Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources visited the island to discuss these problems with local business leaders.