Although the Bangladesh Tourism Board has still not published a standard operating procedure for the tourism and hospitality sector, resort owners are following the WHO’s guidelines
After being cooped up at home for four months amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, many people are gasping for fresh air and this demand has not gone unnoticed.
Resort owners have decided to resume business after a long break and provide people with the breathing space they yearn for.
More than half of the 200 resorts across the country have restarted their operations by maintaining health and safety measures, according to the Tourism Resort Industries Association of Bangladesh (Triab).
Although the Bangladesh Tourism Board has still not published a standard operating procedure for the tourism and hospitality sector, resort owners said that they are following the guidelines suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Some resorts are offering special discounts ahead of Eid-ul-Azha to attract visitors.
Khabir Uddin Ahmed, president of Triab, said, "Around 60-70 percent of the resorts have reopened in rural areas while complying with health and safety directives. We are trying to attract the guests by offering new packages."
Chuti Resort at Joydebpur plans to open from Saturday, targeting Eid guests.
"We have taken measures to screen temperatures, set up a disinfection booth and maintain social distancing. Both guests and staff will have to wear masks and use hand sanitiser," said Abul Hossain Aabir, the resort's head of sales. He added that half of their 80 staff members were ready to welcome guests.
"We are offering a 50 percent discount to attract guests amid the current crisis. A night stay package for a couple is usually Tk10,120 including breakfast and swimming, but it will be half that price now," he added.
Aabir said that their occupancy rate will likely be around five percent before Eid. Before the pandemic, they would get around 80-100 percent guests during the same period.
He also mentioned that most of their staff were on leave during the shutdown.
Arunima Resort Golf Club at Narail reopened from June 1 with "boosting the immunity of guests" as its marketing campaign.
"We have started agritourism and ecotourism at our resort to boost the immunity of our guests. Around 20-25 vegetables are being farmed here and we have medicinal plants and fishing facilities. If a guest stays here for a few days, their immunity must increase by having all the natural food," said Irfan Ahmed, managing director of Arunima Resort.
"We have prepared our own health and safety procedures as per the guidelines of the WHO," he added.
The resort has 40 cottages but is now renting out only 10 to maintain social distancing. Arunima is also rearranging their packages to three-day, one-week and one-month periods.
A weeklong couples package will cost Tk40,000, including: food, accommodation, fishing, swimming, and all other facilities.
Asked about how affordable these packages are, Irfan Ahmed said, "We have offered different packages that are affordable for the middle-class. People even go to more expensive resorts than this."
He said that their guest occupancy is very low at the moment but people are showing interest in visiting in the coming days.
Resort hub Gazipur also prepared for guests
The natural beauty and location have become a blessing for Gazipur as the district alone hosts more than 100 resorts.
"Most of the resorts have resumed operations by maintaining health and safety guidelines and we are also inspiring them to do that as this sector employs thousands of people," said SM Tariqul Islam, deputy commissioner (DC) of Gazipur.
However, all staff have yet to join work at the resorts amid the pandemic.
"Guest response is very low now, but owners are expecting it to increase after Eid," the DC added.
The number of registered resorts in Gazipur is 76, according to the district administration. "However, there are many other unregistered ones," added SM Tariqul Islam.
Nokkhottrobari Resort is one of the pioneers in the resort industry of Gazipur, located in Bangal Para, Sreepur, and is the project of popular actor Tauquir Ahmed and his wife Bipasha Hayat.
"We could not close our resort fully as a few staff members were staying there during the shutdown. However, now we are operating on a very limited scale with 15 employees," said Tauquir, managing director of Nokkhottrobari.
"We may accommodate a lower number of guests than our capacity in order to maintain social distancing," he added.
He also mentioned that they have to give leave to 50 percent of their staff.
The resort industry in Bangladesh started growing rapidly in 2010. The growing economy of the country and the rising purchasing power of consumers made the industry commercially viable.
According to the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, around 200 resorts have been built across the country, especially in the surrounding areas of the capital like Gazipur, Narayanganj and Narsingdi.
Resort owners said corporate groups, professionals and couples are their main guests.