Although the government has permitted reopening of hotels, resorts and amusement parks since August, tour and hotel operators around Dhaka are still struggling to run their businesses due to low number of holidaymakers.
Fear of coronavirus and reduced earnings are the main causes of low turnout in Gazipur and Narayanganj, say those in the hospitality industry.
“Although we restarted our operation just before Eid, we are not getting our main target group — corporate employee retreats — for which we are still incurring losses,” said Abul Hossain Abeer, head of sales and marketing of Chuti Resort in Gazipur.
He said they have already lost Tk 3-4 crore due to the shutdown and are facing more losses due to maintenance work after resuming operation .
Abeer said they had given leave without pay to 70-80 percent of the 70 staffers during the shutdown, and many of them could not return to work.
“We are only getting around 10 percent of our regular number of visitors. All of them are family guests,” he said, adding that they are trying to maintain health guidelines, including using masks and sanitiser, maintaining social distancing and disinfection.
Overall, the tourism sector in Bangladesh could not recover its losses so far and will take a lot of time to return to normalcy, he continued.
“Hopefully, we will be able to earn a good profit if the situation improves before winter,” he added.
According to statistics of Bangladesh Tourism Board, about four million people involved in the tourism and hospitality industry were hit hard by the pandemic.
Losses in the travel and tourism sector in only three months, from March to May, amounted to Tk 1,400 crore, said Mohammad Saiful Hasan, assistant director (planning and research) of Bangladesh Tourism Board.
Md Ismail Hossain, public relation manager of Sara Resort Ltd, said they are getting guests only on weekends, and are also not seeing corporate visitors coming in.
Echoing a similar situation, Dhiman Saha, manager admin of Dream Holiday Park in Narayanganj, said they are getting 10-12 percent of their regular number of visitors since reopening on August 3.
The resort operators said that if Bangladesh Tourism Board increases its advertisements to inform people about the sector and encourage everyone to maintain health guidelines during their visit, normalcy will return, and people will be encouraged to visit resorts and tourist spots.
To this end, Saiful said they are taking different measures to revive the sector. They formed a crisis management committee at the beginning of the pandemic.
“We have also prepared a loss and damage estimate for three months during the shutdown and sent it to the government through the ministry concerned to take necessary steps, including giving stakeholders low-interest loans,” he informed.
“Based on UN World Tourism Organisation guidelines and after consulting with stakeholders, we also sent a recovery plan to the tourism ministry, and they approved it before Eid. It will be implemented now,” he added.
Mentionable that although the shutdown has been lifted, the coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh appears to be far from over, with over 2000 new cases detected last Monday. Travelling still come with some risk and strict maintenance of health guidelines is compulsory during this time.