Tourism, one of the sectors most affected by the Covid epidemic, is gradually recovering but safety and security in the country’s tourist destinations remain a major concern.
Industry associations and tour operators have said the sector has suffered tremendously during the pandemic.
According to Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation’s public relations manager, Ziaul Haque Howlader, the sector has suffered around Tk 30,000 crore, with thousands of tourism-related workers losing their jobs, in the last year-long shutdown. and a half due to the pandemic. .
Aside from the pandemic, experts said, the tourism industry has so far made little progress although there have been plans, master plan, policy and laws formulated and discussions held to this effect. .
The growing sector suffers from a lack of roads and other means of travel to tourist sites, safety and security, quality service and good management, they said.
Amid mismanagement and security challenges, Bangladesh today celebrates World Tourism Day with the slogan: âTourism for Inclusive Growthâ.
Bangladesh, under normal circumstances, has around one crore of domestic tourists and around eight lakhs of foreign backpackers per year, according to company statistics.
After the long shutdown, tourists have been allowed to visit tourist sites since August 19 and adventurers have resumed their leisure travel, allowing tour operators to breathe a sigh of relief, said the chairman of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh, Rafeuzzaman.
Some 785 tour operators, who deal primarily with foreign tourists, have yet to regain their normal operating rhythm, Rafeuzzaman said.
They, he said, suffered trade losses worth Tk 5,700 crore during the pandemic, but have yet to receive any government support.
In addition, safety and security in tourist destinations remains a major concern as tourists continue to be harassed, missing and injured in these places, he added.
According to the chairman of Dhaka University’s Tourism and Hospitality Management Department, Mohammad Badruzzaman Bhuiyan, there are both traditional tourist destinations and relatively new places for sightseeing in the country.
The safety of tourists is often at stake as they fall victim to hostile incidents when relatively new places lack the required security measures for visitors, Badruzzaman said.
Since tourism resumed in August, there have been several incidents of drowning tourists at the Nikli Haor seasonal tourist site in Kishorganj.
At least three visitors drowned and disappeared in these incidents.
Earlier, in a major incident in August 2020, a pleasure trip turned into tragedy as 17 people died underwater after a trawler capsized at Gobindasri Rajali Kanda Haor under Madan upazila of Netrakona.
The trawler, carrying a group of 48 people, including teachers and students, sank in the haor in bad weather.
Seventeen bodies were recovered while the rest were rescued.
Tourists in Cox’s Bazar, arguably the country’s most important tourist destination, often face muggings with at least 33 muggings recorded in the tourist district in 2021.
Deputy Inspector General of Tourist Police Morshedul Anwar Khan recently told New Age that its organizational structure covers 32 districts and with 1,400 force members they cover 104 spots in all 32 districts.
âWhile relatively new tourist attractions like Kishoreganj and Sunamganj haors are experiencing untoward accidents and incidents, we cannot cover these areas with our limited force,â Morshedul said.
There are around 1,400 listed tourist destinations across the country and some 23 lakhs depend directly or indirectly on tourism for their livelihood, said BPC public relations director Ziaul.
He said the sector affected by Covid, as announced by the government, would receive loans for their recovery from the stipulated new stimulus package of Tk 1,000 crore.
The Bangladesh Bank has meanwhile issued a circular stating that hotels, motels and theme parks would obtain loans from banks for their working capital for a period of one year at an interest rate of 8 per year. cent, with the government paying half the interest. and borrowers pay the rest.
But tourism-related businesses said that due to a condition in the circular, tourism-related businesses would not be able to benefit from the loan.
A number of ministries, departments and local governments, according to Professor Badruzzaman, are involved in the tourism sector but they lack coordination, which is also an obstacle to the development of the sector.
He pointed out that another major concern during tourism during the Covid era was that tourists, operators and accommodation providers were reluctant to comply with Covid health guidelines.
“Such reluctance can cause a major catastrophe,” he feared.
Parjatan Corporation President Md Hannan Mia said that the lack of infrastructure, lack of public order and lack of tourist-friendly attitude among the population were major challenges for the expansion of tourism in the country.