Sightseeing in the time of Covid-19

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It is no denying that the country’s sightseeing is experiencing an enormous economic loss due to the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. This has not only caused havoc to our tourism sector but also turned the global tourism sector into a losing concern leading to increasing woes of the millions of people dependent on the sector for their livelihoods.

This unprecedented Covid-19 has downturned the country for a couple of years but the question is: what was the position of our country’s sightseeing in the time of pandemic? Can we really applaud the achievements when it is compared with other Asian countries’ tourism sectors? Frankly speaking, ours is not as flourished as supposed to be after its independence in 1971.

However, compared with other neighbouring countries Bangladesh has immense possibilities to be regarded as one of the high quality tourist hosting countries of the world as the country situated in the South Asia is endowed with an immense treasure of natural beauty and relics of old and middle age civilization.

The natural treasures such as beaches, lakes, rivers, hills, forests, wildlife, tribal life, archaeological remains, historical monuments, religious and cultural heritages, handicrafts have great value for tourist attractions. 

Every year, thousands of tourists from home and abroad visit different places such as the Cox’s Bazar, the Saint Martins, the Sundarbans and Sylhet. The Cox’s Bazar has been an abode of foreign tourists over the years as it has had the world’s longest natural sandy seashore. The Saint Martin’s, a coral island, is an attraction for the visitors for its uniqueness to enjoy sunrise, sunset and exotic village life.

The Sundarbans is one of the most beautiful mangrove forests in the world declared as the world heritage site by UNESCO, contributing to maintaining biodiversity as well as a place of research and relaxation for the people from different countries. In the same way, some places in Sylhet such as Tamabil- Jaflong, Sri Mahalaxmi temple, the largest tea garden, and Lawacherra rain forest are also eye-catching.

But in the race of flourishing tourism among all the South Asian nations, India and the Maldives receive the most foreign currencies. Sri Lanka is not behind the race. Redesigning this high potential sector, these countries have developed tourist friendly atmosphere that helps them earn huge foreign currency every year and make their countries known as abodes of standard and safe living.

Nevertheless both the countries have seen tremendous growth in tourism and the others with moderate success in this sector are facing a severe recession. Though many countries who are tourism-friendly have resumed domestic along with international tourism, some unwanted calamities prevailing are lagging behind the reopening activities. 

In this time when countries think of reopening their tourism industries, travel restriction is still prevalent. According to a recent report, around 96 per cent of destinations worldwide have imposed travel restrictions while 90 destinations have implemented travel bans from other destinations and the other 56 destinations have suspended their function completely or partially due to suspension of international flights.

As per the world data, around 50 million jobs in the global travel and tourism sector are at risk due to the global coronavirus outbreak. In Bangladesh almost 1.1 million people used to maintain their livelihoods on this sector, who are passing a very hard time. It is estimated from the recent survey that around 3 lakh hotel workers and employees have become unemployed due to the emergence of coronavirus crisis though the government of Bangladesh announced a stimulus package to support this sector. 

The Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) has estimated that tourism sector may lose up to Tk. 60 billion in 2020 due to the pandemic. The recent study reveals that the tourism sector will incur a loss of more than BDT 6000 crore if the situation does not improve right now and this blow of loss is  likely to be double if its reopening is delayed within a shortest possible time.

Different survey reports confirm that the economic contribution of this sector has not only been from foreign tourists but a huge number of domestic tourists are contributing to the growth of this sector. It is estimated that around 90 lakh domestic tourists travel across the country in a year. In the last year this sector contributed to 4.4 per cent in the GDP. 

However it is, no doubt, a praiseworthy step of our government to reopen tourism which was undergoing a severe economic shock. Of course, public safety is the first priority, so keeping that in mind, stepping out towards a new normal in this sector will be a time-centric initiative as life and livelihoods matter the most. 

The writer teaches at Prime University. Email: malaulalam@gmail.com

 

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