All air and bus tickets have been sold out as fully-booked hotels and resorts scramble to find vacant rooms for tourists
Around one million tourists are expected in Cox’s Bazar during the next weekend -- which turns into a three-day one due to the International Mother Language Day on February 21, with more than 400 hotels and resorts already being booked and all air and bus tickets sold out.
Officials concerned say tourist police and law enforcement agencies have taken all-out preparations to ensure the safety of the tourists amid the pandemic, as the coastal town braces for the influx of visitors.
Even all the tickets for the Saint Martin's Island-bound ships have also been sold.
The International Mother Language Day -- which is a public holiday -- on February 21 falls on a Sunday this year, coinciding with the weekly holidays on Friday and Saturday, and the three consecutive holidays are leading to the possible massive surge of tourists.
Hotel prices have soared with the minimum price of a one night’s stay now starting from Tk3,000 to Tk7,000.
People concerned say, in addition to the popular tourist spots such as Laboni, Inani, Himchhori and others, various areas in the coastal district such as Saint Martin's Island, Dulahazra Safari Park, Radiant Fish World and many others are expecting a massive rush of tourists, therefore significant traffic jams and increase in prices of essentials are also expected -- apart from harassment of tourists.
This surge in tourist activity has followed the matter that the country is witnessing a fall in the number of daily Covid-19 cases and deaths -- leading to people fearing the pandemic less.
The daily test-positivity rate remained below 3% for nine consecutive days, with the overall infection rate standing at 14.09% as of Saturday.
Until Saturday, Bangladesh recorded a total of 540,266 cases and over 8,200 deaths.
Sultan Ahmed, in-charge of Greenline Paribahan’s Cox’s Bazar office, said: “There are no bus tickets available for February 19 till 21. Since there are holidays for three consecutive days, all tickets have been booked in advance.”
Pradeep Chowdhury, general manager of the Sea World Hotel, said: “There are 245 rooms in our hotel; however, not a single one is free. All have been booked in advance. We are expecting at least one million tourists in Cox’s Bazar over the upcoming holidays.”
Hotel owners and flat renters said they were not expecting such a rush near the end of the season.
Cox's Bazar Coordinator of luxury ship Karnaphuli Express Hossainul Islam also added that 5,000 tickets for travelling from Cox’s Bazar to Saint Martin have already been booked in advance.
"Other ships are also seeing the same rush. As a result, many people won't be able to visit Saint Martin next weekend," he said.
Rashidul Amin, owner of Cox’s Bazar Adventure Tour and Travels, said: “It is impossible to get air tickets now. The lowest price for a one-way ticket from Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar is now between Tk9,000-10,000. One-way tickets from Cox’s Bazar to Dhaka cost the same.
"A VIP tourist group has booked tickets to come here on February 19, but no tickets are available for their return. The same goes for February 20 and 21.”
Local businessmen said, although the number of tourists had initially gone down due to the pandemic, there is again a surge in the number of visitors as cases are dropping countrywide and people do not fear the virus nowadays. However, extremely congested gathering of visitors in all hotels -- especially small cottages, guest houses and rest houses -- may lead to a difficult situation.
Kolatoli-Marine Drive hotel owners association General Secretary Mukhim Khan said none of the hotels, guest and rest houses, cottages, and resorts, in the areas they oversee, had any free room for the next weekend.
"These establishments can house 150,000-200,000 people for a night. We will face problems if the number of tourists exceed that," he added.
Tourist police's Cox's Bazar Zone SP Md Zillur Rahman said they were ready to ensure proper security for the tourists and maintain law and order during next weekend's rush.
"We'll have multiple teams working and patrolling the key points in and outside the town round the clock to ensure overall safety of the tourists.
"Apart from additional teams, members of the district police's Special Branch and Detective Branch are also working in multiple teams," he added.