Bangladesh is planning to restart tourism in line with the health and safety protocols after the Covid-19 pandemic laid waste to the tourism industry, inflicting major financial loss.
A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) prepared in this regard is awaiting government approval. Meanwhile, the Cox’s Bazar district administration is planning to reopen tourist spots with reduced capacity.
However, there remains a sense of scepticism about whether the panic-stricken people will visit the spots at all amid the crisis. Tour operators have said financial assistance is the first thing that is required to revive the ailing sector.
Two major tourist destinations in Bangladesh – the Cox’s Bazar sea beach and the St Martin’s Island – have been shut for months due to the pandemic.
As a result, hundreds of hotels, motels, more than 2,000 food shops, markets, as well as thousands of tourism-dependent businesses were shuttered. More than 150,000 people, including about 40,000 officers and employees and over 150 tour operators, have become unemployed.
Cox’s Bazar was left without tourists since the start of the lockdown on Mar 26, Abul Kalam Shikder, general secretary of Cox’s Bazar Hotel-Motel and Guest House Owners’ Association, said. The situation is still the same, he said.
“About 80 per cent of the total earnings from the country’s tourism sector comes from Cox’s Bazar. Although there is no proper account, it can be said from our various studies and surveys that the annual turnover from tourism in Cox’s Bazar is about Tk 100 billion.”
The Bangladesh International Hotel Association has claimed its hotels have suffered losses totalling an estimated Tk 25 billion so far due to the pandemic.
“There are no tourists in Cox’s Bazar. The number of guests in most hotels has dropped significantly. Many hotels have shut down,” Mohsin Haque Himel, secretary of the association, said.
However, discussions were underway with the district’s deputy commissioner to revive the tourism sector after Eid, he said.
A committee meeting will be held after Eid with the reopening of a handful of tourist spots being mooted, according to Cox’s Bazar DC Kamal Hossain.
There are about 200 leisure resorts in the country, most of which are located in Gazipur.
If people want to visit them, they can do so by following the health directives, Mostafa Mahmud Ali, owner of ‘Chhuti’ resort, told the aforementioned agency. “However, we doubt the resort will be able to fill even 10 per cent of its capacity,” he added.
Md Rafiuzzaman, the president of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh, said the government’s plan to resuscitate the tourism industry will not be successful unless it provides quick financial assistance to the affected stakeholders.
According to him, all sectors of tourism, except aviation, have suffered losses amounting to Tk 59 billion between January and mid-July.
The work of assessing the damage to the tourism industry and formulating a recovery plan with financial assistance for the victims is in its final stage, said Mohammad Saiful Hasan, deputy director (Planning and Research) of Bangladesh Tourism Board.