Another gloomy Eid in pandemic for Bangladesh’s tourism businesses

With the tourism hotspots shut amid a nationwide lockdown over a second wave of coronavirus infections, the sector is set to see yet another Eid pass by in despair.

Staff CorrespondentTabarul Huq,
Published : 11 May 2021, 09:24 PM
Updated : 11 May 2021, 09:24 PM

Around four million people, who are directly or indirectly involved in the sector, stare at uncertain times, says Md Rafeuzzaman, president of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh or TOAB.    

People involved in the sector are now seeking government help to ride out the crisis, as Rafeuzzaman says the industry stands to lose Tk 57 billion in lost business due to the crisis.

After the country had gone into the first lockdown over the pandemic in March last year, the tourism sector began reopening in August following a standard operating procedure, or SOP, made by Bangladesh Tourism Board.

Bandarban’s Chimbuk hill has reopened, but it is yet to draw tourists amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The hotels and other businesses in the industry thought they would leave the losses behind them and start anew as travellers began to return to the tourism hotspots after being homebound for a long time.

But when the second wave hit by the end of March this year, the tourism sector was the first to be shut down. Then a nationwide lockdown was imposed in the first week of April.

“We are waiting for the pandemic situation to normalise before we can reopen the industry,” said Rafeuzzaman.

Khabir Uddin Ahmed, president of the Tourism Resort Industries Association of Bangladesh or TRIAB, is frustrated about the uncertainties.

“If [the industry] does not reopen after the Eid, we will have to leave this business and do something else,” he said.

Big hotels like Grand Sultan in Moulvibazar are waiting for foreign guests.

Bangladesh International Hotel Association, an organisation of owners of 45 three to five star hotels in the country, claimed they lost "tens of billions of takas" to the crisis.

“All the hotels in the country are empty,” said Mohsin Hoq Himel, secretary general of the association.

He does not see things looking up even after the Eid.

“The sector is almost ruined. The hotel employees have no work. Some hotels are helping their employees survive, but the others cannot.”

Mohsin, along with TOAB President Rafeuzzaman and TRIAB President Khabir, claimed the tourism industry did not get any help from the government’s Tk 300 billion stimulus package for the services sector.

Resorts like Meghmati Village in Mymensingh are struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rafeuzzaman thinks it will be possible to save the industry if the government thinks about it when the situation improves.

He called for soft loans if a stimulus package is not announced for the sector.

Mohsin said those running business with bank loans are in greater danger as they cannot repay in this situation.

“Many of us may try to turn around if the government arranges loans for us on easy conditions under the package,” he said.

The government will think about reopening the sector when the situation “normalises”, said Mohammad Saiful Hasan, a deputy director at the Tourism Board.

“It’s not possible to do anything by putting people’s lives at risk.”

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