The Financial Express

Tourism's upbeat prospects

| Updated: December 21, 2021 22:17:31

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Cox's Bazar beach, one of the greatest tourist attractions in Bangladesh and the longest unbroken beach in the world, has started getting back its usual bustle. Tourists are coming back in large numbers. The one and a half years long Covid-19 pandemic dealt a telling blow to the business of tour operators, especially the hotel, motel and guest house owners. These days this sector seems to be slowly overcoming the lag of the long corona-induced shutdown. Although the overall tourism sector in Bangladesh has continued to be operational during the occasional drops in corona intensity, the latest rise in tourist turnout points to an auspicious development --- the sector is headed for a recovery.

 The fun-seeking and recreation loving tourists have started arriving at the spot. Some of them eye the coming New Year's Eve, when they plan to return to the beach. Given the rush of tourists of all ages, some with families, to the beach resorts many hotel managements find themselves to be overstretched. They discover that 70 per cent of rooms at many Cox's Bazar hotels and motels have already been booked. This is viewed as a highly favourable sign for the beach-centred hotel business. In short, after a full corona-haunted year, the hospitality sector heaves a sigh of relief, with some dreaming of recouping the pandemic-prompted losses. This has been echoed by the Cox's Bazar Hotel Motel Guest House Owners' Association. According to it, there are 450 hotels in the beach town. The business of all of them has been severely hit by the corona-time shutdown, many left on the verge of closure. The resumption of the tourists' rush to the Cox's Bazar beach is expected to emerge as an occasion of redemption. The hotel and motel owners are, thus, taking preparations to make the optimal use of the present and the coming tourist arrivals.

 A similar scenario is found on the country's other beaches, including that of Kuakata. The tourist sites in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the greater Moulvibazar and Sunamganj have also lately found a new lease of life. Tourists have started again thronging the areas' numerous well-known sites. The tourism sector's reversion back to its earlier heyday gives cheer to the government's revenue sector. Tourism's healthy growth means increased volumes of revenue from it. In the current fiscal year, the revenue collection target has been set at Tk 4.06 billion. Of the amount, Tk 775 million is said to have already been collected till October. On the other hand, the revenue amount collected last FY stood at Tk 3.0 billion. On an average, Tk 1.0 billion goes to the state coffers every year from the tourism sector alone.

Amid the increasing rush of tourists to the country's various sites, things bode well for the sector. But the Covid-19 threat is yet to be over. Complexity in the global vaccination programmes continues to linger, giving rise to embarrassing issues like 'vaccine monopoly', 'discrimination' etc. Even the allegations of lopsided vaccination in poorer countries have become common. With many European countries and the North American continent grappling with the newly mutated Omicron virus, Bangladesh cannot rest assured of its safety. If the virus stages a comeback with its earlier ominous force, the country's turnaround will suffer. That the tourism sector is regaining its vibrant character speaks amply of its coming better times. But there are hard prerequisites; there should not be any let-up in the countrywide vaccination, and compliance with health guidelines.

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