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Restrictions against Corona Surge

Tourism likely to suffer big blow

  • Esaraf Hossain And Rajib Kanti Roy
  • 12 January, 2022 12:00 AM
  • Print news
Tourism likely to suffer big blow
People crowd shops in the capital’s New Market area on Tuesday but social distancing is hardly maintained by both shoppers and sellers despite the rapid spread of coronavirus. – Reaz Ahmed Sumon

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All the tourism-related business sectors in the country may suffer a serious blow as the government has imposed fresh restrictions to check further spread of coronavirus.

Tourists’ movement in different tourist hubs in Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Bandarban, Cox’s Bazar, Sylhet and Sundarbans has already marked a decline shortly after the imposition of the anti-corona restrictions.

Many hotels, motels, recreation centres, picnic spots and community centres are likely to come under shutdown in the wake of further surge of the fatal disease.

The restrictions may cause unemployment for thousands of people involved in the sector, many feared.

Under the fresh restrictions, most of the scheduled programmes, including annual picnics, wedding ceremonies, are being cancelled.

The scheduled dates for picnics of Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) on January 29 and Bangladesh Secretariat Reporters Association on January 14 have been cancelled.

However, the commerce ministry has decided to continue Dhaka International Trade Fair 2022 following health guidelines on coronavirus.

The trade fair started at Bangabandhu Bangladesh-China Friendship Exhibition Centre in Purbachal area of the capital on January 1.

On Monday, the government imposed fresh restrictions across the country from January 13 in a bid to prevent further spread of coronavirus and its new variant Omicron.

Last year, all the tourist spots across the country were shut down in a bid to prevent further spread of coronavirus.

Local administrations of the respective districts advised tourists not to visit the spots until further notice.    The government authorities asked all to cancel big gatherings and programmes at all hotels, restaurants, resorts and rest houses.

But, people began to throng the tourist spots after the government closed all educational institutions until March 31.

Insiders in the tourism industry said they are recovering the loss they suffered for the corona shutdown last year. The sudden spike in the corona cases and new restrictions will literally cripple their business.

They also fear if the corona crisis prolongs, the tourism industry would suffer an irreparable loss and their business would collapse permanently.

“We had to face a huge setback during the last year’s lockdown and closure of tourist spots and recreation centres. Yet we were trying hard to turn around entertaining holidaymakers during this peak season of tourism, but the latest surge in COVID-19 cases and restrictions will ruin our recovery efforts,” said Tourism Resort Industries Association of Bangladesh (TRIAB) President Khabir Uddin Ahmed.

“During the last year’s shutdown I struggled a lot to run my business. I reduced the staff number to half. Yet I had to sell my family property to pay their salaries and survive,” said Azizur Rahman Saju, who is operating Rest Inn Hotel in Moulvibazar.

“Holidaymakers will stop planning tours and will not come to our hotel amid strict instructions. In such a situation, I don’t know what will happen to my business,” he added.

With more than 115 subdivisions like hotels, resorts, tour operators, recreation centres, aviation, cruise ships, buses, foods, tourism is a massive industry. The fall in business due to strict restrictions or any long closure will cause a huge number of job cuts which storm the lives of the people related to the industry.

Joydeb Saha, a coordinator of tourist guides in Cox’s Bazar, said, “Almost half of the last year I survived with half salary. If the corona situation deteriorates, I will surely lose my job this year.”

“I worked nine years in the sector. Therefore, it will be difficult for me to start afresh,” he added.

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 pandemic.

Improvement in the COVID-19 situation reopened the window of attracting foreign tourists again, but the tour operators fear that all the scheduled trips of foreign tourists to Bangladesh will be cancelled while local tourists have stopped planning tours abroad.

President of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) Md Rafeuzzaman said, “A very tough time is waiting for us. If foreign tourists don’t come and local tourists cancel their plans to visit other countries, we will have to struggle for survival.”

“Bangladesh Bank last year declared a stimulus package worth Tk 1,000 crore for hotels, motels and theme parks suffering for lack of tourists,” the TOAB president said.

He has requested the government to consider their situation and stand by them.