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Tourism sector will turn to new possibilities: State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mahbub Ali

Tourism is at the top of the list of sectors most affected by the Corona crisis. Earlier, in a written statement to the government, the stakeholders said that about 4 million people had lost their jobs due to the lockdown. Almost every business entity in the tourism sector including hotels, motels, tour operators, travel agencies is in crisis due to Corona. In this situation, how will the tourism sector turn around by facing the challenge of the epidemic? What is the government’s plan? State Minister for Private Aviation and Tourism Mahbub Ali spoke to Samakal about these issues. He said a complete ‘recovery plan’ has been taken through the Bangladesh Tourism Board. The process of implementing these has also started. As a result, the tourism sector will turn around again after overcoming the crisis. All the organizations related to the tourism sector will become active again. Those who have become unemployed will get employment opportunities again.

The state minister said the recovery plan has given special importance to the domestic tourism sector. In particular, there is a plan to make the huge potential of attracting and developing the tourism sector within Bangladesh a reality. As international tourism is now limited, there is a huge opportunity to develop domestic tourism. More importance is being given to the use of that opportunity. He added that regular online meetings with officials from 64 districts have started as part of the recovery plan. He himself is involved in the meeting. The meetings are discussing how to implement the potential of domestic tourism. To this end, it is being said that tourism information centers will be set up in every district, measures will be taken to make the places visited by tourists more attractive and safe, and new tourism attractions will be created. Arrangement of vehicles to visit the tourist places locally where there are opportunities. This plan is also being taken around Dhaka and surrounding areas. Special ‘city tours’ will be arranged for tourists on holidays. Plans have also been made to collect a few double-decker buses for this purpose. Buses will take tourists to significant tourist destinations and the Tourism Board will arrange visits for tourists. Areas known for tourism such as Chittagong, Chittagong and Sylhet will be provided with free movement and healthy entertainment for tourists. Officials are also being told to prioritize the inclusion of tourist attractions in the construction of new roads and bridges. In many places, tourists are not able to go at ease due to travel problems. For this reason, importance is being given to the development of tourist-friendly road communication and transportation system. When constructing buildings locally, it is recommended to plan in such a way that those buildings can also be attractive for tourists.

Mahbub Ali said that in order to implement the recovery plan, arrangements have already been made to open almost all the tourism spots, hotels and motels in the country in compliance with the health rules of the World Health Organization. Standard Operating Procedure or SOP has been prepared for this. The SOP mentions specific guidelines and hygiene rules for service providers and tourists. These include providing the service provider with regular disinfection of tourist accommodation, sightseeing, ensuring adequate stocks of health care items, maintaining certain distances while eating, compulsorily wearing masks, and strict adherence to the rules of health care for service workers at all times.

The guidelines for tourists include adhering to health rules, using masks on the journey and frequent hand washing with sanitizer, refraining from handshakes, hugs, exchanging greetings according to cultural tradition, always keeping with emergency medicines, and those with allergies already have that information in advance. Informing the tourist service provider, maintaining certain physical distance in arranging food and any event. Separate guidelines have also been issued for foreign tourists.

The state minister also said that besides the recovery plan, tourism service providers have been brought under the incentive package announced by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to tackle the epidemic crisis. Hotels, motels, resort authorities, tour operators, travel agencies and tourism business stakeholders will be able to take loans from banks under the incentive package in compliance with the rules announced by the government. For this, the Tourism Board is also providing assistance in liaising with the banks and service providers. They should be able to get loans under the incentive package. Regular liaison is being maintained with the service providers for further assistance.

He said that in the meantime, work is underway to implement a master plan to build a huge beach area in Cox’s Bazar, Kuakata beach area, Sundarbans area and river-centric tourist centers in different places. If any new possibilities and opinions are found, they are also being added to the master plan. Apart from this, new tourism opportunities have been created centering on Haor. Plans have been made to use it as well.

Referring to the country’s tourism sector as very promising, the state minister said Bangladesh has immense natural beauty, archeological heritage, rivers, seas, hilly regions and the world’s largest mangrove forest. After taking charge, he took practical steps to make the huge potential of the country’s tourism sector a reality

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