As coronavirus looms over the world, the best time to support local businesses is now

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(Left) Boracay's White Beach, (Right) Smoothie Bowl from The Sunny Side Cafe. Photos: Ching Dee | The Sunny Side Cafe / Facebook

As COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continues to loom over dozens of countries around the world, its effects have taken its toll not just in terms of health, but on the economy as well.

In the Philippines, tourism is taking a critical hit as new possible cases of COVID-19 are brought to hospitals for observation. Flights are cancelled and hotel cancellations are high, even the country’s flag carrier had to lay-off 300 employees due to losses caused by COVID-19. Meanwhile, local restaurants are also experiencing a significant decrease in sales.

Restaurateur Nowie Potenciano made an impassioned plea on Facebook, as he explained the current situation in Boracay where he owns beloved restaurants The Sunny Side CaféSpiceBird, Coco Mama, and Supermagic.

“If you’re considering a vacation or planning to take a holiday, please support local and choose somewhere in the Philippines. Or even better, please come over to Boracay. Less than two years after we were shut down, Covid-19 is presenting another tough challenge to all the businesses and workers on the island,” Nowie recalled.

He explains, “Not only are there virtually no Koreans and Chinese (who make up almost 60% of tourists) anymore, but even visitors from other countries to Boracay have dramatically dropped because they’re afraid of the virus. Travelers are avoiding Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo which are hubs to getting to Manila. The effect has been devastating to everyone on the island. We’ve been hearing stories of 4% and 15% occupancy in some hotels. Workers being asked to go on leave for 15 days, only to come back to half-day duties or being given a schedule for only a week. The desperation is palpable down to the vendors and boatmen who are virtually begging for business among the handful of tourists left.”

According to Nowie, they had to close one of their restaurants after its sales dropped by almost 80 per cent. While they were able to re-assign the staff to their other restaurants, he’s worried about the possibility of having to close another business.

He does have great news for those who are still longing to see the white sand beaches of the award-winning island.

“The good news is that as a visitor, there’s no better time to come to Boracay. The beach is absolutely beautiful and is the most empty I’ve ever seen it in almost 20 years of coming to the island. There are also ridiculously great deals to be had for both airline fares and hotels. Some nice resorts are now going for as low as P3,000 a night… It’s easy to get seats at restaurants and moving about is a breeze. And of course, with us, you’ll be sure you’re eating well,” Nowie wrote.

And the most important part: “Best of all, there have been ZERO confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Boracay and Malay, Aklan. Absolutely none,” he confirms.

He ends his note with an encouraging promise: “Please support local and choose to holiday in the Philippines. Everyone in this industry we call hospitality could use the boost. We promise to make it worth your while.”

So, if you’re still looking for a great excuse to go out and support local businesses, the best time to do it is now.