Meanwhile the Covid-19 situation has taken a turn for the worse with 2,576 new cases on Thursday
The Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) on Thursday urged the government to open tourist destinations across the country.
At its post-budget discussion held at the National Press Club, the association demanded that tourist spots be opened in compliance with hygiene and standard operational procedure (SOP) in order to save the industry from destruction.
Md Rafeuzzaman, president of TOAB and governing body member of the Bangladesh Tourism Board, said: “Tourism is the third largest industry in the world. In Bangladesh, it added 4.7% to the GDP in 2019, amounting to Tk6,300 crore. But due to the pandemic, the tourism sector had to incur a loss of around Tk20,000 crore last year.”
About 4 million people involved in this industry are now living inhumane lives, he further said. “Many are frustrated and have been forced to move to other businesses.”
Also read - New tourism bill proposed in parliament
Meanwhile the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh has taken a turn for the worse as new infections, daily deaths went up with the daily infection rate climbing over 13%.
The country registered 40 deaths from Covid-19 in the 24 hours to Thursday morning. With the latest development, the total number of deaths reached 12,989 in the country while 2,576 people testing positive over the same period, the number of total infections rose to 820,395.
“We have been calling for incentives for tour operators and everyone involved in the tourism industry since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year — a demand which has yet to be answered.
“We could not take any kind of bank loan even though it was included in the service sector. In the proposed budget, Tk4,032 crore has been allocated for this sector, which is Tk344 crore more than the previous budget. I think this allocation is very small for the development of the tourism industry in the current context,” Rafeuzzaman said.
In his budget speech, the finance minister spoke of developing Bangladesh's tourism industry, but there were no directives to bring the sector out of the financial crisis, he added.
To save the industry, TOAB made many demands at the press conference, which included the reopening of tourist spots as soon as possible.
Since the government has allowed transport, shops and everything else to resume on the condition of compliance with the health rules, TOAB thinks it is reasonable to open the tourist spots in Bangladesh on the condition of compliance with the health rules and SOP.
Last year's coronavirus alone caused a loss of Tk5,700 crore for the TOAB members.
And since March this year, everything has come to a standstill and the damage to the tourism sector is increasing, speakers said at the conference.
If the current situation is extended till December 2021, losses could surpass Tk9,000 crore.
No incentives were provided for the tour operators, TOAB said, adding that many TOAB members are frustrated and are being forced to move from tourism services to other businesses.
Also read - Long-haul buses finally set off from depots
“We strongly demand incentives for tour operators. Otherwise, several lakhs of people involved in this industry will become unemployed. As a result, the tourism industry will suffer a terrible loss,” they said.
The trade licence renewal fee is much higher for tour operators than other businesses, the association said. So, it demanded waiving the trade licence renewal fee for the next year.
TOAB members also said it is very important that tour operators be vaccinated against the coronavirus on a priority basis.
TOAB Director of Media and Publications Mohammad Shahed Ullah presented the overall scenario of tourism at the press conference.
Among others, TOAB First Vice President Shiblul Azam Koreshi and Vice President Abul Kalam Azad were also present at the conference.