Md Rafeeuzzaman, President of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) -- Photo: Monitor
Dhaka: The effect of the coronavirus has, from January, crippled Bangladesh tourism industry. Already, the industry has incurred a loss of BDT 5,700 crore and the amount is likely to expand.
Disclosing this to newsmen, at a press briefing on April 7, Md Rafeeuzzaman, President of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) said that if current situation prolonged, the amount of loss will increase.
Md Rafeeuzzaman said that due to the coronavirus outbreak 100 per cent bookings for out-bound, inbound and domestic tours has been cancelled, leaving the tourism sector virtually cripple from January.
The situation has not hit tour operators only, everyone concerned with the industry are affected. 40 lac professionals, working in tour operation, travel agency, hotel, motel resort, restaurants, airlines, tourism transportation, cruising and guides are facing uncertainty about their livelihood.
He said that with COVID-19 pandemic over, it may take tourism industry, at least two years, to recover from the crippling blow.
Thanking Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the declaration of her financial package for service sector, including tourism, due to COVID-19 pandemic, he requested the government to disburse the loan immediately so that the tour operators can pay salaries and make other necessary payments at this difficult time.
TOAB has placed 16 recommendations—eight for immediate (distress time) and another eight for short and long-term measures, to the government.
The recommendations for distress time include, government financial help to TOAB members during distress period. Working capital for TOAB members to pay salary of employees, office rent, utility bills, other loss adjustments and meet capital crisis for the period between January and December, 2020, from incentive package announced by the Prime Minister. Immediate arrangement of low interest soft condition mid-term loan. Enough allocation in the national budget for the protection and development of tourism sector, for the next three years.
The recommendations for short and long-term include creation of a BDT 5 billion fund for promotion of Bangladesh tourism abroad, branding to attract foreign tourist and involve TOAB along with Bangladesh Tourism Board and Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation in implementation of related programmes. Introduction of e-visa along with on-arrival visa. Efforts to get grant and soft-term loans from UNWATO, UNDP, ILO, ADB. JAICA to develop and promote Bangladesh tourist products. Allow TOAB to setup meet and greet or information booth at all airports and tourist sports of the country.