BIHA urges PM’s intervention to save tourism sector

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With devastating coronavirus pandemic severly impacted the international standard hotel sector (a vital organ of the tourism industry) of Bangladesh like other countries across the globe, the hard-hit sector has necessitated public and private concerns to come forward to sway the imminent disaster.

At the same time, the top-notchers of the sector have also sought the Prime Minister’s intervention to save the distraught sector and protect the lives of more than 3.1 lakh people along with their families of the sector. 

Bangladesh International Hotel Association (BIHA) President HM Hakim made the observations while placing six point recommendations at a press briefing titled ‘Exclusive Package for Hospitality Industry’ at a city hotel in the capital on Wednesday. 

Khaled-ur-RahamanSany, Co-Chairman of BIHA Disaster Management Committee,delivered the keynote address, highlighting the importance of the tourism industry in the country’s economy.

In his speech he said,“The sector’s contribution to GDP is 4.4 per cent, which we, working as a supportive force of the government, are willing to elevate this to a double digit figure”. 

“However, the unforeseen corona pandemic appeared as a sudden blow to our face that has already caused a severe loss of about Tk 2,500 crore in the sector. If this situation continues, the loss of the hotels in Bangladesh will exceed Tk7,000 crore by the end of this year”, he added.

Citing the record decrease of boarders in most of the hotels Sany said, “The number of boarders in most of the hotels has come down to 2-3 percent, which is the lowest in recorded history. Many hotels have been shut down. It is simplynot possible for the hotels to conduct their regular operational activities under the current situation”. 

According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), more than 310,000 hotel workers and employees in Bangladesh are at risk of becoming unemployed as a result of the corona pandemic. Nonetheless, the tourism industry is also important in the implementation of Vision-2021 and Vision-2041 of the Prime Minister with the aim of building a digital Bangladesh. It also involves the country’s image, international relations and the national economy. 

“As a last resort to overcome this gridlock, we seek the ‘Exclusive Package for the Hospitality Industry’ and the direct intervention of the government to save this sector. The special fund announced earlier by the government to support the garment industry has earned a lot of praise and brought hope to the people. We are also keen to save the hotel and tourism industry which has always played a glorious role for the steady growth of our economy” added Sany. 

The six recommendations that they have made for the  consideration of the Prime Ministerare:

1.Waiver on dividends/ interest on existing loans against international standard residential hotels and other hotels and resorts in Bangladesh, from March, 2020 to December, 2020 and revival ofcurrent installments from next June, 2021 as well as fixing all dividends/interest before the start of the installment.

2. Allocation of Tk30,000 crore under the government-announced incentive package for the worst-affected hotels and resort businesses at a dividend/interest rate of 9% (4% of which is for the businesses and 5% for the government) payable within a duration of 3 (three) years keeping a grace period of 1 (one) year and the next two years for the re-paying. 

3. Providing of Tk500 crore from the government’s own funds to the hotel employees who have been forced to stay at home during the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic which is to be disbursed among them directly on the basis of their monthly salary or through their business organization.

4. Exemption of all utility bills e.g.electric/WASA and gas bills of residential hotels from March, 2020 to December, 2020.

5. Exemption of holding tax of residential hotels and resorts under city corporations and municipalities till 2020-2021.

6. Exemption of tax deduction from the salaries of officers and employees of residential hotels and resorts.

Among others, managing director of Sena Hotel Development Ltd owning company  Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden & Radisson BluChattogram Bay View Lt. Gen. Sabbir Ahmed (Retd),Executive Assistant Manager (Finance) of Pan Pacific Sonargaon Dhaka Asif Ahmed, managing director of Long Beach Hotel AbulKalam Azad,managing director of Lakeshore Hotel GulshanKaziTareq Shams, managing director and CEO of Amari Dhaka Ashok Kejriwal,managing director of Hotel la Vinci Ltd ATMSaidulAlam,GM of Renaissance Dhaka Gulshan Hotel Azeem Shah, CEO of Unique Hotel and Resorts Limited owning company of The Westin Dhaka and HANSA Shakawath Hossain, managing direcotor of The Way Dhaka Ahmed Yusuf Walid, and CEO of Best Western Plus Maya Rashadul Hossain Chowdhury were present at the press briefing.