The tourism sector of the country that hit rock bottom at the height of the coronavirus pandemic is now facing an existential crisis as all the industry activities remained halted for about one and a half years.
Industry insiders said they had never suffered so badly in the past and if the crisis prolongs, the industry would suffer an irreparable loss and their business would collapse permanently.
According to Bangladesh Tourism Board, over 5 lakh foreign tourists came to Bangladesh in 2019 before the coronavirus began spreading in the country which has been decreased to almost zero during the ongoing pandemic.
Tour operators say all the trips of foreign tourists in Bangladesh have been cancelled while local tourists have stopped planning tours abroad due to vaccination issue, visa complications, and irregular flight operations by domestic and foreign airlines.
Hotels, motels, resorts, theme parks and tourist spots of the country have been stuck in a fence of restrictions.
As the business has been closed for a long period of time, owners are counting huge losses every day and the employees have been losing jobs, they said.
“At least 15 of my fellow resort and hotel, motel owners have left their business. I’m paying salaries to employees selling my family property,” said Azizur Rahman Saju, who is operating Himachal Resort at Radhanagar in Moulvibazar’s Sreemangal upazila.
According to the WTTC report, the sector’s contribution to GDP in 2020 was only Tk 54,000 crore, which was Tk 80,450 crore in 2019.
About 400,000 of the 40 lakh people involved in the sector have lost their jobs so far. Many others are not receiving any salaries from the employers.
Travel expenses in the country decreased by 33.3 percent and international travel expenses decreased by 59.7 percent during the period, said the report.
Tourism is one of the sectors which have been hit hard by the pandemic. But the sector has not yet got any incentive over a long period of time.
However, Bangladesh Bank (BB) on July 15 declared a new stimulus package worth Tk 1,000 crore for hotels, motels and theme parks suffering for lack of tourists.
But people related to other subdivisions said they also need similar stimulus package to save their business.
President of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) Md Rafeuzzaman said, “Tour operators lost about Tk 5,700 crore last year alone while the amount of loss was almost Tk 4,500 crore in the first six months of this year.”
“With more than 115 subdivisions like hotels, resorts, tour operators, recreation centres, aviation, cruise ships, buses, foods, tourism is a massive industry. The government should asses the loss that all these branches of tourism sector have suffered and support them accordingly,” he added.
Eid is one of the prime times for the tourism industry in Bangladesh as TRIAB and TOAB estimate the hotel-resort sector alone makes Eid-centric business worth Tk 5,000 crore and around 60,000 to 70,000 people used to go abroad during every Eid.
But the tourism sector passed the fourth consecutive Eid last week without entertaining holidaymakers.