The pandemic has cost the tourism industry around Tk20,000 crore last year
While most of the sectors are being allowed to re-open after strict lockdown to keep the economy afloat, the country’s tourism sector is left behind.
Industry associates have earnestly pleaded to authorities to re-open the tourism sector so that they can contribute to the economy.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, the tour operator association and the people involved requested for immediate re-opening of the sector.
Md Rafeuzzaman, president of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) and governing body member of Bangladesh Tourism Board, said that tourism is now the third-largest industry in the world.
Tourism added 4.7% to the GDP in 2019, amounting to Tk6,300 crore. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism sector had to incur a loss of around Tk20,000 crore last year.
About 4 million people involved in this industry are now living near destitute lives. Many are frustrated and forced to move to another business, he added.
“We have been calling for incentives for tour operators and everyone involved in the tourism industry since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year, which has not been successful yet,” he further said.
He also said that TOAB will submit a letter to the ministry requesting for re-opening so that the industry and dependent sectors can survive amid the pandemic.
Noting the challenges, the TOAB president sought tax resumption over dedicated imported vehicles for tourism.
Besides, citing the dependent sectors of tourism, Mohammed Shahed Ullah, director (media & publication) of TOAB told Dhaka Tribune that transport, hotel-motels and many industries have received stimulus and aid funds, but tour operators are bearing the brunt of the pandemic.
“We want to operate our businesses and serve people. If buses are allowed to operate, why not tourist destinations? Related business to tourism has been dying since last year,” he added.
M Rezaul Karim Reza, president of Cox’s Bazar Tour Operators Association, expressing dismay, said: “Many of our manpower is passing idle days, many left as the sector is not reopening. In Cox’s Bazar, a vast population survives on tourism. We urge the government to allow us to operate our business.”
Citing the incentives, he said: “Hotel motels are property business, They received stimulus and bank support. But we did not receive any aid or funds. Many tour operators are in debt, banks won’t leave us.”
To support the tour operator, he asked for an interest-free loan or low-interest rate loan so that the sector can overcome the coronavirus onslaught.
Earlier, TOAB, in order to provide maximum services to the tourists in the tourism industry and economic development of Bangladesh, urged the concerned authorities to make arrangements for immunization on a priority basis.
It also asked the Ministry for Tourism for the proper development of the tourism industry in Bangladesh.
According to TOAB, all those involved in tourism have lost more than Tk20,000 crore due to coronavirus in 2020, where Tk5,700 crore has been lost by the TOAB members alone.
And since March this year, everything has come to a standstill and the damage to the tourism sector is increasing.
If the current situation is extended till December 2021, the amount of loss of the TOAB members could be more than Tk9,000 crore.