The number of tourists visiting Bangladesh has dropped drastically since the terror attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan, Dhaka last July.
Within four or five months of the terrorist attack, Bangladesh had almost no tourists arriving from either Japan or Italy. Although the situation has improved since, tour operators say that the current numbers reflect a mere 20% of the normal in-flow of tourists, especially from those countries.
Tourism industry experts say the killing of foreign nationals at the Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1 has been a huge blow to the industry. Hundreds of tourists from different countries have canceled their visits to Bangladesh since then.
Tour Planners Limited Managing Director Faridul Haque told the Dhaka Tribune that some 700 Japanese tourists engaged their services last year, but post the Gulshan terror attack, only about 150 Japanese tourists have sought their services.
Each year, a total of 5,000 to 6,000 Japanese tourists used to visit Bangladesh. The Gulshan attack changed that scenario completely, according to Md Masud Hossain, the executive director of Bengal Tours Limited.
“Over the past year, only 1,000 tourists came to Bangladesh. As the arrivals from Japan declined, 16 tour guides who would have handled the Japanese tourists, have quit. The overall slump in tourism has caused a total of 15 tour guides adept in other languages to also quit,” lamented Masud.
Riverain Tours Limited CEO Syed Mahbubul Islam Bulu is one of the major in-bound tour operators in Bangladesh. His main market is Italy.
According to Mahbubul, only five Italians came to Bangladesh this year, whereas the yearly arrival from Italy was around 600 in the recent past.
After Cesare Tavella, an Italian citizen, was killed in Gulshan earlier last year, Italian tourists had already been canceling their reservations. The Gulshan terror attack was another major setback, Mahbubul explained, adding that a total of 500 bookings had been canceled after the latter incident.
Mahbubul’s suggestion for an industry turnaround was that the government should work to recover the foreigners’ trust.
According to Hasan Monsur, the chairman and founder of The Guide Tours Limited, around 200 foreigners had canceled their tours in Bangladesh after the killings of Japanese national Kunio Hoshi and Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella.
Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) CEO Nasir Uddin Ahmed concurred, but added that though there was an instant impact of the Holey Artisan attack on foreign tourist arrivals, the trend had not continued for long.
“Terrorist attacks are a global phenomenon. No one is safe, even in the developed nations. In that context, Bangladesh is still the safest destination in the world,” he added.
Bengal Tours’ Masud Hossain thinks the situation is not going not improve any time soon as they are not getting any advance bookings for the coming winter season.
“To get bookings from foreign tourists, Bangladesh will have to work relentlessly to have the red alert on Bangladesh removed,” he explained.
Silver Wave Tours Managing Director Wahid Ullah agreed with that assessment and added: “If Japan and Italy remove red alert on Bangladesh visit, other countries will follow. This will definitely help to boost tourism here.”