Can La Union handle waves of tourists from Boracay?

April 17, 2018 - 5:57 PM
Surfer La Union
With Boracay's closure on April 26, many tourists are considering La Union as the new go-to tourist spot for partying. (file photo)

Could La Union be the new go-to party place after Boracay’s popular week-long festival, known as LaBoracay, was canceled following the government’s closure of the island?

The LaBoracay summer festival, which takes place during the long Labor Day weekend, draws in thousands of tourists every year. With the island’s shutdown on April 26, the organizers called the event off on its Facebook page.

While not as popular as LaBoracay, the surfing capital also has a similar festival, called Labor Union, this time derived from the name “La Union.” The Labor Union Festival is being hyped online as an alternative to LaBoracay.

One user, Reddie Ferdie, posted a Twitter thread on April 12 airing his concerns that people may leave the surfing spot “trashed” if tourists move their partying there.

He also said in the thread that local officials should be prepared to handle the possible sudden influx of tourists during the upcoming weekend festival.

Many feared that a surge of tourists may leave the beaches of the province with mountains of trash.

Is mass tourism really bad?

Having too many tourists in a place with limited resources and attractions may not be sustainable in the long run, according to an article by Anna Pollock from the Guardian.

“The industry resembles a high-speed train, crammed with passengers with cheap tickets, racing toward a cliff edge. So it’s worth asking why this challenge generates so little debate in the press and in general business literature,” Pollock wrote in the article titled “Six reasons why mass tourism is unsustainable.”

Locally, the coasts of both La Union and Boracay are relatively small but already congested. From the north, the beach town of San Juan, where the sought-after waves are, is only 5.94 square kilometers. To the south, Boracay’s coastline is around 7 kilometers long.

“We need to develop the idea of conscious travel and start to imagine a better alternative. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or silver bullet; change will need to occur at the grassroots level, one destination at a time,” Pollock said.

Better tourism over boycott

There are others, though, who question the motives of those against promoting the Labor Union festival.

Ramon Gino Chan, Jr. said on Twitter that people should not boycott the festival in La Union because tourists “bring money for the locals.”

“People who want tourists to leave certain destinations are no different from people who get mad whenever their favorite band goes mainstream. Tourists bring money for the locals. Instead of calling for a boycott on #LaborUnion, why not promote green tourism instead?” he said in his Twitter thread.