The global outbreak of Covid-19 has affected life and the economy like never before seen in the world. The travel restrictions that came with this pandemic have wreaked havoc on the transportation and tourism sectors.
According to the specialized agency of the United Nations, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a 22% drop in international tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2020.
The UNWTO said the crisis could lead to an annual decline of between 60 and 80 percent compared to 2019 figures.
The crisis in the tourism business around the world puts millions of livelihoods at risk and threatens to roll back the progress made in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In Bangladesh, thousands of people involved in the tourism sector in the mountainous districts of Bandarban and Rangamati have lost their jobs and live a miserable life with their families.
The bustle in the local craft shops, the tourist transports and all the shops in the hill districts have quieted down. People who depend on the sector find it difficult to make ends meet.
Sixty hotels, motels and resorts in Bandarban have been closed since March, causing owners to reckon with huge losses every day.
Meanwhile, the district was put under another 21-day lockdown from Thursday in the second phase, as it was declared a ‘Red Zone’ (area with a high number of coronavirus cases).
Sirajul Islam, Secretary of Bandarban Abashik Hotel, Malik Samity Motel & Resort, said they have been counting a loss of 2.0 to 2.5 million Tk every day for three months, while the families of more than 1,000 employees are spending for a difficult time.
Most of the craft shops owned by people from the local ethnic community remained closed, he said, adding that the pandemic left the entire district in shock.
When asked about the attendance, Islam said that the district administration provided 1,000 Tk to each of the hotel’s 270 employees before Eid-ul-Fitr.
“Apart from a little help, we haven’t received anything from the government,” he added.
Usually more than 40,000 tourists visit Bandarban daily and leave the district, Sirajul Islam said, adding that they eat lunch at different hotels here that were closed after the pandemic started.
“We have 5,500 residential hotel seats for tourists and they have all been vacant for the last three months,” he added.
He said that hundreds of local transport workers, who basically take tourists to different places, have been left without work.
Rangamati falls silent
The 200 tourist boats are idle without tourists for more than three months.
Moinuddin Selim, president of Rangamati Hotel Malik Samity, told UNB that 50 hotels, motels and resorts have already recorded losses of more than 180 million Tk since March.
Other sectors are also counting losses, he said.
“We were forced to reduce our workforce because we couldn’t pay them,” Selim said, noting that staff and their families are having an extremely difficult time.
More than 2,000 tourists visit different sites in Rangamati daily between February and June, he said, adding that the rush of tourists usually decreases during the monsoon.
“The loss that we have already counted is really difficult to recover,” he said, noting that every day more than 200 buses used to enter the district with tourists, which has been stopped.
Selim urged the government to provide easy loans to save the tourism industry.
UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said the world is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis.
“Tourism has been hit hard, with millions of jobs at risk in one of the most labour-intensive sectors of the economy,” Zurab said.