Amid a gloomy situation, World Tourism Day 2020 is being observed today
- Businessmen have not received loans under the stimulus package
- Hotels occupancy is 10-15%
- The guest rate at resorts is around 30%
- Around 60% of restaurants across the country have reopened
- Zero recovery for tour operators, travel agencies
- Tourism sector lost Tk12000cr amid pandemic
Entrepreneurs in tourism and hospitality, one of the sectors worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, have been suffering heavily as they have not been able to recover sales or secure bank loans amid the crisis.
The Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) prepared a recovery plan for the sector in May, under the supervision of the civil aviation and tourism ministry, to face Covid-19's challenges.
Although the recovery plan made a provision of working capital for businessmen, as loans from the banks under the stimulus package for Covid-19, the hoteliers, resort and restaurant owners, tour operators, travel agency owners, and Umrah and Hajj agency owners claimed that none of them have received a single penny.
Additionally, the BTB also planned to list the affected employees among 40 lakh people involved in this sector and provide assistance to them, but that has not been implemented yet.
Some hotels, resorts, restaurants, and airlines have resumed their operations but they have yet to gain momentum, said industry insiders.
Amid this gloomy situation, the country is going to observe World Tourism Day 2020 on Sunday – focusing on the recovery plan for the sector.
Tourism is an industry that is affected first and recovers last in any big disaster. And historically, it is not an attractive sector for bank investment
Although the day is traditionally observed in a festive mood with colourful rallies and various programmes, this year the program will be observed with just two virtual discussion programmes organised by the Bangladesh Tourism Board and Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation.
On this occasion, Md Mahbub Ali, state minister for civil aviation and tourism, spoke at a virtual press conference on Saturday.
He said, "We already prepared a Standard Operating Procedure [SOP] to reopen the tourism sector, and have completed workshops in 22 districts under the declared recovery plan."
"We are trying to revive domestic tourism before the travel restrictions are withdrawn from different countries," he added.
He said this year's tourism day's theme of "Tourism and Rural Development" coincides with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vision of transforming villages into towns.
Regarding the loans, he said, "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina allocated Tk20,000 crore for the service sector as Covid-19 stimulus package. The entrepreneurs of tourism and hospitality are eligible to get loans under the service sector, but they have to apply following the procedure and maintaining the rules like other sectors to get them."
Asked about this issue, Mutual Trust Bank Managing Director Syed Mahbubur Rahman told The Business Standard, "Tourism is an industry that is affected first and recovers last in any big disaster. And historically, it is not an attractive sector for bank investment."
He said on an average the default rate is high in this sector. So, banks are not interested in giving loans to tourism operators.
"However, they should try to get this sector mentioned specifically in the government circular so that banks will feel pressure to give loans to them," he added.
Hotels, resorts, restaurants yet to pick up business
Some hotels, resorts and restaurants have reopened but they have not been receiving many guests yet.
Hakim Ali, president of Bangladesh International Hotel Association, said, "The current occupancy rate of star category hotels is around 10-15%. We are operating just to cover maintenance costs."
I do not know any hoteliers who got a single penny under the stimulus package. It was only announced, but we got nothing.
"I do not know any hoteliers who got a single penny under the stimulus package. It was only announced, but we got nothing. If we do not get any support, some hoteliers will be bound to close their businesses," he added.
Khabir Uddin, president of Tourism Resorts Industry Association of Bangladesh, said, "All the resorts have reopened but the occupancy is around 30%. We expect to get more guests in the coming season."
Meanwhile, around 60% of restaurants have reopened, all over the country, according to Bangladesh Restaurant Owners Association.
Khandaker Ruhul Amin, president of the association, said, "Still many people are not feeling comfortable going to restaurants. The number of the customers the restaurants now serve is around 60% of those in normal times."
Zero recovery for tour operators, travel agencies:
There has been no recovery for inbound and outbound tour operators and travel agencies yet as travel restrictions are continuing in most countries.
Md Rafeuzzaman, president of Bangladesh Tour Operators Association, said, "Many tour operators are doing other businesses just to sustain themselves. Some have already left their offices as they cannot bear the maintenance costs."
"It is a tragedy that none of us have gotten loans from the banks," he commented.
Some Japanese business travellers are contacting us to come to Bangladesh, but the European travellers may not come before a vaccine is invented
Masud Hossain, managing director of Bengal Tours, said, "My company mainly deals with tourists from Japan and European countries. The Sundarbans and some archeological sites are the destinations of these travellers. But the Sundarbans has not been reopened for travellers yet."
"Some Japanese business travellers are contacting us to come to Bangladesh, but the European travellers may not come before a vaccine is invented," he added.
Chowdhury Hasanuzzaman Rony, convener of Bangladesh Outbound Tour Operator Forum, said, "We still have zero business and no recovery. But some domestic tour operators have businesses amounting to 10-12% of what they had in normal times."