- Tourism sector lost taka20,000cr last year
- Tour operators demanded reopening all tourist destinations
- Industry insiders demanded exemption from trade license renewal fee
- Businesses related to tourism demand bank loan
- 40 lakh people are employed in the entire sector
The tourism sector of Bangladesh will incur a loss of around Tk9,000 crore this year if the tourist spots and the relevant businesses remain closed until December 2021 due to Covid-19, said the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (Toab).
In such a situation, the Toab demanded that the government reopen all the tourist destinations across the country.
In a virtual discussion titled "The Effects of Coronavirus on the tourism sector and the measures to be taken for quick recovery" on Tuesday, Toab said around 40 lakh people are employed in the country's tourism sector which includes tour operators, travel agents, hotels, motels, resorts, airlines, transportation, catering, cruising and guiding of tourists.
"After the first wave of coronavirus, Bangladesh's tourism industry had been trying to recover some of its losses through domestic tourism, but the second wave pushed the tourism industry into uncertainty again," said Md Rafeuzzaman, president of the Toab.
"Almost all the tour operators, tour guides and tourism related local business owners are currently leading a disastrous life. All the Toab members' offices have now been closed. They are out of business and it is hard to tell when the situation will improve," he said.
Commenting on the losses in the sector, Rafeuzzaman said, "There are 109 sub-sectors directly and indirectly involved in the tourism sector. All those involved in tourism lost more than Tk20,000 crore due to the Covid-19 situation last year. Four sub-sectors, including the tour operators, lost Tk5,700 crore that year."
"Everything has come to a standstill since March this year and the amount of damage is increasing. If this situation of Covid-19 pandemic continues till June, the loss will be around TK6,800 crore. If the current situation continues till December 2021, the amount of loss could be around Tk9,000 crore," he added.
The Toab president also said the government has permitted to reopen all the sectors including public transport, restaurants, and factories. So, the authority should give permission to reopen the tourist destinations under the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) formulated by the Bangladesh Tourism Board.
Regarding the fear that coronavirus spreads through tourist destinations, Shiblul Azam Korshi, first vice-president of Toab, said, "The allegation is based entirely on conjecture, not data. The infection rate in major tourist destinations like Cox's Bazar, Chattogram Hill Tracts was not so high after the first wave."
The chief guest at the event Mostofa Azad Chowdhury Babu, senior vice president of FBCCI, said, "Tourist centers can be opened to a limited extent in compliance with hygiene rules."
He hoped that the Toab leaders would come up with a plan and present it to the government.
The tourism and hospitality sector – one of the industries hit the hardest by the Covid- 19 pandemic given all the border closures, travel restrictions and lockdowns – is facing an existential threat amid a lack of support from banks.
Industry insiders say in spite of being the largest among all industries in the service sector, they have not received any loan under the government-announced stimulus package meant for pandemic-affected industries and the service sector.
Left without any protective measures from the authorities concerned, some of the investors in the sector have been staring at bleak business prospects in the near future, so they shifted to other sectors.
The Toab demanded that the government ensure that the businesses related to tourism get bank loans amid the pandemic.
The Toab also demanded that the government exempt them from paying the licence renewal fee as long as the Covid-19 crisis prevails.
The Toab leaders said they will go for various programmes like human chain if their demands are not fulfilled.