Bangladesh is going to set a national SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for tourism sector within a week with a framework over how the travel and leisure industry will maintain health guidelines and social distancing after reopening their business.
The tourism SOP has been seen as mandatory for every country to attract the tourists while the ongoing global travel stalemate due to COVID-19 pandemic is planned to put an end from early next month while some European countries are going to restart its tourism season from middle of this month.Currently, Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), country’s national tourism organization (NTO), is preparing the SOP to assure intending tourists about their health safety while touring here after reopening the tourism, the most hard-hit sector due to the pandemic that had pushed more than half of the humanity into some sort of lockdown.
“We are working on it, right now we are receiving suggestions from different stakeholders regarding this …. We will submit our final draft SOP to civil aviation and tourism ministry within one week,” BTB’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) M Jabed Ahmed told BSS today.
After receiving the draft SOP, the tourism ministry would send it to the Health ministry for their opinion. “The health ministry could keep our SOP untouched or bring amendments to it. After their feedback, we will finally publish the SOP to implement,” Ahmed said.
The BTB had formed a committee with participation of private sector to prepare the SOP with a set of protocol on how service providers will encounter tourists while dealing them in airport, accommodation, restaurant, sightseeing and other activities during their entire stay in Bangladesh.
Ahmed said they are following guideline of United Nation World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and World Health Organization (WHO) in preparing the Bangladesh SOP on tourism.
The UNWTO has released a set of guidelines recently to help the tourism sector emerge stronger and more sustainably from the pandemic while WHO released interim operational guidance on COVID-19 management in the accommodation sector on March 31 this year.The BTB chief said the SOP will be written in simple language so that anyone can follow it while a mechanism can also be developed for monitoring of its strict implementation.
On Monday, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)-Bangladesh chapter has submitted the first ever draft SOP as a private stakeholder to the BTB to reopen the tourism and hospitality sector amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“During the post-COVID era, SOP on tourism will be an important criterion for the tourists in choosing their holiday destinations,” Toufiq Rahman, general secretary of Pata Bangladesh Chapter.
Mentioning that many neighboring countries have already prepared the draft protocol or their SOP to well manage Tourism, he said, “To re-establish our tourism business, we also need to look into the issue and prepare the same.”
He said they prepared the draft SOP to help the government ready the national-level SOP. “We would like to supplement the government’s efforts with our draft SOP. The government could take points from our draft SOP while finalizing the national SOP,” Rahman added.
The PATA draft SOP suggested designating Tourist Resilient Zones as RED, YELLOW and GREEN regions.
Less crowded destinations such as Sundarbans, Chittagong Hill Tracts, River based tours, Archaeological Sites, Museums are suggested to put in Green Zone while crowded destinations like any type of festivals, bazaars, slums, ports or stations in Red Zone, it said.
It also said social distancing method will have to be ensured to allocate seat arrangements like – Sedan car for 1/2 guest, 7 seat van for 2/3 guests, 12 seat van for 4/5 guests, 29 seat minibus for 10/11 guests, 36 seat coach for 16/17 guests.
The PATA’s SOP said health certificates for service providing staff like drivers, guides and assistants are mandatory and their temperature must be measured every morning alongside using of Masks, Caps, Goggles, Hand gloves, etc must be ensured.
It suggested the BTB for certifying a list of tourism service providers including hotels, motels, resorts, transport companies, tourist guides, tour companies, and restaurants based on the terms of health and hygiene.
Earlier, local travel and tourism service providers urged the government to place a specific incentive guideline to support the country’s entire aviation and leisure industry as the ongoing global standoff due to COVID-19 pandemic sent the sector into tailspin.
The Tour Operator Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) estimated that the tour operators of Bangladesh, may loss nearly Taka 6000 crore this year if the situation does not improve while The PATA Bangladesh chapter predicted that overall Bangladesh tourism sector would incur a loss of approximately Taka 9,705 crore of business till June 2020 due to the pandemic.
On March 13, the World Travel and Tourism Council said that up to 50 million jobs in the global travel and tourism sector are at risk due to the global COVID-19 outbreak.