The Financial Express

Pragmatic move to rescue tourism sector

Pragmatic move to rescue tourism sector

The nearly two-year business doldrums in domestic tourism have evidently dealt a crippling blow to the sector. As it began struggling for merely keeping afloat, the much-awaited announcement came from the government. By that time five months had elapsed, when all tourist sites in the country remained veritably off-limits to visitors. The highly propitious announcement on the resumption of normal functions at the tour sites emerged as the rekindling of a dimming light. Commensurate with the announcement, the country's fledgling tourist and recreation centres were declared open on August 19.  With the Covid-19 pandemic behaving unpredictably, and nobody being sure when the terrible outbreak would be over, the government had to reopen the tourism and leisure sector. Their object was to save it from being in the death throes. The corona scourge struck the country at a time when the tourism sector began drawing the middle-and lower-middle classes in increasing numbers.

Unlike in the earlier periods of corona-prompted off-and-on closures, the reopening the spots has apparently been caused by an alarming rise in the fallout from the tourism-based economy. Before getting down to the brass tacks, the relevant authorities are believed to have assessed the pros and cons of the decision to reopen the country's tourist sites. In spite of the bold decision, they knew they would be harried by the spectre of the Covid-19 pandemic. Keeping rational worries aside for now, the government went ahead with its decision in order to save a fast-emerging sector that has lately discovered itself on the brink of collapse. In reality, domestic tourism in Bangladesh had in the recent years started showing enormous economic prospects. From the socio-economic point of view, the decision to reopen the tourist resorts, the far-flung natural sites and the city-based recreational and amusement outlets might eventually prove a pragmatic one.  

At the end of the day, a paradox remains. Despite the government's firm decision to allow the public to undertake their tourism ventures, otherwise termed a bid to bail the sector out, there are people who feel galled. It stems from the fact that upon reaching their desired spots, lots of people are feared to throw to the wind the must-follow health guidelines. After all, they are enjoying the freedom of moving around following a long gap. A bitter truth is a large percentage of these tourists and amusement park-going people have yet to complete their 2-dose vaccination. Many are completely unvaccinated, with no intention to take the jabs at all. The authorities have, however, ensured that the half-capacity prerequisite will remain in force stringently. It is worth waiting to see to what extent, these assurances will be in force at different spots.

The countrywide corona pandemic is far from being over. Moreover, newer deadly variants have added to the dreadfulness of the pandemic situation. In such a plight, it was simply a 'state of siege and helplessness' which has gripped the tourism sector. The entrepreneurs and operators behind the functioning of the sector had dared not demand that the authorities declare the sector open. Throughout the nearly year-long shutdown period, they bled silently, like the other national economic sectors.

Parallelly, the government had kept losing large chunks of revenue lately being earned from the unhindered operation of the sector. The Covid-19 pandemic doesn't appear to be over soon in Bangladesh. In such a fraught situation, the authorities have, perhaps, found no pragmatic and better option before them except reopening the tourism & recreational sector.

To speak in a different way, the authorities concerned have been compelled to reopen the facilities in the well-known tourist sites across the country. Besides, city-centred facilities like high-end amusement parks, public parks, family pastime sites etc in Dhaka and the larger cities are set to become abuzz with the jovial noise of both children and youthful parents. But the pandemic observers will surely be disappointed to watch people visiting the amusement parks and recreational sites indulge in fun and revelry in reckless abandon. Most of the prohibitions at tour sites are related to corona-time health protocols. Those begin with the most critical of the prerequisites: social distance. The irony is while at tourist sites in a remote area or at amusement parks in Dhaka or Chittagong, the long fun-deprived people may find it hard keeping the prohibitions in mind. Here lie the seeds of the danger of being infected with the air-borne virus of the pandemic. Sensing this ominous possibility, the country's health experts have made an appeal to the government that it ensures the tourists remain out of the path of the Covid-19 hazards.

Given their business ventures being on the verge of petering out, the managements of seaside hotels, motels and rest houses this time should employ a state like combat-readiness in enforcing the health guidelines. All this will benefit both the tourists and tour operators.

The latter mostly include the entrepreneurs engaged in business centring on beach hotels, tourist-site resorts and other tour-related facilities. Cox's Bazar, Kuakata and the greater Sylhet are some of the traditional venues of tourist choice. Besides, the three CHT hill districts have long shown veritably strange looks without tourists. With the official resumption of tour activities in the vast hilly zone, the country's domestic tourism can be expected to return to its pre-pandemic character. However, experts feel it might take two years for the sector to get back its sprightliness --- amid full safety.  


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