Fear of a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic still looms in Bangladesh, warn experts
As tourism gains momentum in business following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, the few health guidelines still in force are being completely ignored in violation of the conditions imposed by the government.
One of those protocols for hotel authorities at famous tourist spots was to keep 50% of the accommodation empty. But it is being disregarded by the management of hotels and motels.
Taufiq Rahman, secretary general of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Bangladesh chapter, said it is hard for hotel authorities to follow health rules even if they wish to because of the onrush of tourists at the spots soon after the relaxation.
“A strict monitoring by local administrations on how many tourists can visit a spot at a time may ensure the compliance of the government’s directive,” suggested Taufiq.
Apparently, health guidelines have already become a myth in Cox’s Bazar, one of the most frequented tourist spots in the country with 500-600 hotels and motels.
President of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) Rafiuzzaman said crowds in open places cannot actually be controlled or monitored.
“In our meetings we are asking operators to operate tours maintaining health guidelines. But most tourists go personally and they do not actually care much about those rules,” said the president of TOAB.
Regarding keeping 50% accommodation vacant, Rafiuzzaman said though five-star or standard hotels are maintaining the guideline, small hotels are taking full bookings.
“You have to book rooms a few days before going as all good hotels are booked in Cox’s Bazar due to the large number of tourists,” a tourist who recently returned from Cox’s Bazar told UNB.
The direction to run hotels at half capacity was hardly seen being maintained as the pressure of tourists was huge, he said.
Meanwhile Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Mamunur Rashid claimed that the maintaining of health guidelines and sparing of 50% of rooms are strictly being monitored with the assistance of hotel association and Tourist Police.
Considering the livelihood and economic woes of the country's tourism sector, all tourist destinations have been reopened with a notification of guidelines for the hotel, motel and tourism centre authorities, said State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mahbub Ali.
Regarding the defiance, the state minister said local administrations have been monitoring the compliance of the rules, and if needed, they are directed to conduct mobile courts as part of strict measures.
“Our decision has been that the local administration will coordinate with public representatives, volunteers, scouts and other stakeholders in running awareness campaigns for tourists to follow Covid-19 health rules,” he said.
Mass campaigns need to be conducted locally for revaluation of the situation with the stakeholders of the tourism sector to have a grip on the pandemic as well as the tourism industry, Mahbub added.
“Our tourism sector has turned around from the losses it incurred during the long lockdown imposed for Covid-19 but our activities need to be controlled to make sure the sector does not get shut down again,” he said.
Any negligence in maintaining health rules at tourist destinations will not be tolerated and legal actions will be taken against hotel authorities who are not keeping 50% accommodation free, said Mahbub.
The declining number of Covid-19 cases and deaths signals an easing of the second wave in the country but the fear of a third wave still looms, warn experts. They said the time to lower the guard has yet to come.