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Tea Leaves

Boracay's cautionary tale for region's scenic cashcows

Future murky for tarnished tourism poster child

Tourists return to Boracay, Philippines, on Oct. 26, after the island was closed to visitors for six months.   © Reuters

I visited Boracay for the first time in June 2016, and left with no desire to return. The famous White Beach area was a tourist trap, overrun by hordes of selfie-stick wielding narcissists, aggressive vendors, and drunken foreigners who seemed more interested in dating than in Filipino culture. Inconsiderate and demanding visitors treated the locals like servants paid to cater to their every need.

Boracay over decades became the poster child for tourism in the Philippines, with more than 2 million visitors a year enjoying its powder-fine sand, crystalline waters and bustling nightlife. But where, I wondered, was the pristine paradise touted in travel guides? Was cheap beer and debauchery really the image the Philippines wanted to convey?

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