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Tourism industry hard hit by blockade

Ziaul Haque Howlader::  EVERY year the peak season of tourism industry in Bangladesh commences

from November and lasts till the end of March. Unfortunately, every year, it coincides with the political

unrest in the country. Tourism service providers and investors wait for the peak season for their big

earning and to cover the overhead costs of the lean season. But their hope remains just a

dream. Last year in 2014 at the same period, political unrest broke out centring the national

polls. Tour operators, hoteliers, and resort owners became encumbered with heavy losses, and

many service providers were forced to become debtors. The tourism business is witnessing a

similarly grim scenario in the country this year.

Tourists, from the country and abroad, are calling to cancel confirmed bookings. We have

seen that, in the popular tourist destination, Cox’s Bazar, the hoteliers have very few guests.

The hotels that normally witness averagely 60-65% room occupancy during this tourist

season now have only 10-12% occupancy rate due to blockade. The current political situation

not only heralds bad business for the sector, but also creates a poor impression of the country

among international tourists.

Both foreign and domestic tourists are afraid of moving around due to the non-stop blockade,

which results in a great loss of the tour operators as well as of local impoverished people

around the sites who depend on tourism for their livelihoods. When tourists move from one

site to another, they spend money for food, transport, accommodation and souvenirs, boosting

the local economy. But non-stop country-wide strike, invariably associated with violence,

forces the tourists to stay inside the hotel.

Tour operators, hoteliers and travel agents of the country earn their net profit this season only

out of the whole year. According to the WTTC, around 1.5 million people directly and a total

of 2.3 million are involved in the tourism industry of Bangladesh. All these people have been

left in the lurch as the tourist season has almost come to an end, with most businesses having

failed to generate the expected profit. Besides, the other dangerous point is, the tourists who

are leaving the country with a bad experience may not visit the country again and may even

discourage others from doing so. This is also tarnishing the image of the country, which, in

the long run, would make it difficult to attract foreign investment in the tourism sector. The

government is being deprived of a huge revenue loss. Hence, for the sake of the tourism

industry and the country, we may have to think of alternatives to non-stop strike and

violence. We may also keep the tourist vehicles out of the purview of any strike.

The writer is Deputy Manager of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation.