Tourism sector suffers severe blow amid political turmoil
UNB || Shining BD
Political instability ahead of the national election appeared as a big blow to Bangladesh’s tourism sector as most popular tourist destinations including Cox's Bazar, St. Martin, and Kuakata see sharp drop in the number of visitors.
With up to 90 percent of advance bookings canceled, the once-bustling establishments face unprecedented vacancies as people are reluctant to travel amid the countrywide ongoing blockades and hartals enforced by the BNP and some other like-minded opposition parties.
Tourism industry insiders claimed they had to count losses worth Tk 1.5 thousand crore in the last several weeks due to cancellation of advance bookings in hotels, motels, and resorts across tourist hotspots until mid-January.
Hotel and motel owners said prior to October, over 50-60 percent of rooms in more than 500 hotels and motels in Cox's Bazar were booked daily.
However, recent weeks have witnessed a drastic decline in tourists, reducing the number from half a lakh to a mere 5-10 thousand. Most of the visitors are predominantly locals. Similar circumstances prevail in Kuakata and St. Martin.
Hotel and motel owners expressed concern about the ripple effect on their employees, as business downturns force layoffs and hinder salary payments.
President of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB), Shiblul Azam Qureshi, laments the impact on tourist spots like Cox's Bazar, St. Martin, Rangamati, and Kuakata.
“Now is a critical period for the tourism sector. Bookings for November, December, January, and February—the prime tourist months—have been canceled,” he said.
He said Cox's Bazar, Kuakata, Sundarbans, Sylhet, Ratargul, Jaflong-Tamabil, Rangamati, and Patenga Beach, which should be bustling with tourists at this time, now lie empty.
He also said he has a hotel at St. Martin but its 90% rooms are lying vacant now.
“With the tourism season typically starting in October and reaching its peak in November, the ongoing political unrest has resulted in nearly empty hotels and motels this month, with bookings canceled due to the blockade,” he said.
Salim Newaz, General Secretary of Cox's Bazar Hotel Motel Guest House Owners' Association, said over 500 hotels and motels are empty now due to the continuous blockade progrmame.
Mukhim Khan, general secretary of the Kalatali Marine Drive Road Hotel-Motel Owners' Association, estimated a staggering Tk 1000 to 1500 crore losses due to the prolonged blockade.
He urged the concerned to keep tourist vehicles out of the purview of hartals and blockades to salvage the tourism sector.
Similarly, Motaleb Sharif, General Secretary of the Kuakata Hotel-Motel Owners’ Association, said, safety concern has led to widespread booking cancellations, as people are reluctant to embark on risky journeys with their families amidst political instability.