Hit hard by coronavirus fallouts, tourism-based businesses in the Sundarbans are eagerly waiting for reopening of tourism for their survival as they suffered huge losses over the past five months.
The government restricted tourist gatherings in the world's largest mangrove forest on March 19 to prevent the spread of coronavirus, reports UNB.
Tourism-based business houses and thousands of workers in the Sundarbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, have remained almost idle since then.
Thousands of people involved in the tourism sector centering the Sundarbans have been passing through a critical time losing their sources of income, said the report.
Tourist season in the Sundarbans usually starts right after monsoon as it is high time to enjoy the scenic beauty of the mangrove forest but the businesspeople are seeing no hope ahead as the government has not yet allowed tourism in the forest, sources said.
Talking to UNB, tour operators and tourism-related businessmen said some tourist spots have already been reopened but no decision has been taken yet about allowing tourists in the Sundarbans, causing frustration among them.
There are nine tourist spots in the Sundarbans and over 45,000 tourists visit the areas during November to March which is the peak time for Sundarbans tourism.
Belayet Hossain, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Sundarbans East Zone, said in an effort to curb the coronavirus pandemic, the government imposed a restriction on the entrance of tourists as well as the movement of river vessels in the Sundarbans on March 19.
“No decision to reopen the tourist spots in the Sundarbans is yet to come and it depends on the ministry concerned,” he said.
On August 17, the local administration in Cox’s Bazar allowed to reopen sea beaches, hotels, motels and business establishments in the municipality area on a limited scale after a long closure but no decision has been taken yet about allowing tourists in the Sundarbans.
Besides, authorities have permitted tourists to enter the Sundarbans at Dakkhin Rai Dera in India from June 15.
Moinul Islam Jamaddar, president of Tour Operators Association, said all the tourism sites, including Kuakata have been reopened and there will be no problem if the government allows tourists in the Sundarbans as it will bring revenue.
Several hundred workers and staff of over 50 ships owned by 70 tour companies have remained jobless for the last five months, he said.
“Three to four months are counted as the tourist season in the Sundarbans and the businessmen related to tourism have to pay the wages of their staff for the whole year. If the government doesn’t not take any step to lift the restriction, then it’ll be deprived of huge revenues while the tourism will collapse here,” said Moinul Islam.
The DFO said an amount of Tk 1,04,97,658 was collected as revenue in the 2019-2020 fiscal year as some 1,07,384 tourists visited the Sundarbans last year.