Kolkata markets cry for Bangladeshi visitors
Travel ban hits business
Enayet Karim back from Kolkata:Most of the West Bengal markets and hotels, particularly in Kolkata have shutdown due to lack of customers, especially from Bangladesh due to the ongoing travel banimposed for the Covid pandemic. A few numbers of shops are remained open but passing idle time for lack of customers.
The markets have been open to the public from June; however, most of them are missing usual customer as they are receiving only local clients. The larger number of buyers – Bangladeshis – are missing currently as travel restrictions are imposed on them for the Covid-19 pandemic.
The brand and chain shops in West Bengal, including one in Kolkata New Market, which are very popular among Bangladeshis. It is receiving only10 percent of customers right now.
“The Bangladeshi buyers, who are almost 80 percent of our total buyers, flock to our showrooms throughout the year and become 90 percent during Eid or Puja. However, we missed them in the last few months leading to heavy loss to our businesses,” Mohammad Latif, a showroom owner, told this correspondent while visiting Kolkata.
“The outlets have been open since June, but there are no tourists,” said the frustrated trader.
The situation is quite common for most Kolkata shops who are missing buyers particularly from Bangladesh. They are going through an extreme crisis due to the lack of buyers.
There are more than three hundred big and small residential hotels in different areas of Kolkata which are affected as well. Marquis Street, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, Park Street, Free-School Street, Barabazar, Razabazar, SN Banerjee Road, Chowringhee Place, Rash Behari Ave, Gariahat, Jawaharlal Nehru Rd Taltala, Netaji Subash Rd, Behala Old Bazar, Chitpur, Metiabruz, Sealdah, Howrah, New Market — are the most popular areas among tourists.
Even many foreign money-exchange shops and hotels are closed now due to lack of tourists. Most of the residential hotels have been shutdown due to lack of boarders.
As Kolkata’s traders are largely dependent on Bangladeshi buyers, Bangladeshis are also dependent on shops of Kolkata — not only for clothing or jewellery but for many essential items too.
Amir Hossain, a businessman, has been buying medicines for his relative, a heart and diabetic patient, from Kolkata since 2014.
“We used to buy medicines for three-four months, every time. Now we have to rely on third parties to bring the medicines. The cost is double than the usual cost ofTk30,000 — for medicines for three months,” said Hossain.
One in every five tourists to India is from Bangladesh, with most tourists traveling to the country for holiday and medical purposes.
Around 2.15 million and 2.25 million Bangladeshi tourists travelled to India in 2017 and 2018 respectively, while the number was at 1.38 million in 2016, according to the Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) data compiled by the Ministry of Tourism of India.
The data says visitors from Bangladesh usually stay for 14 days.
Mita Munshi, who owns Munshi Fashion at Kolkata New Market said tourists from Bangladesh — the highest tourist generating country — mostly stay in areas close to New Market.
“In my 20 years of experience, I have seen their huge attraction for Kolkata’s sarees, kameez and jewellery,” he said, adding that the shops usually have sales of over Rs 1 million a day during Puja and Eid.
Sources of different traders’ associations of Kolkata New Market told that markets are down due to pandemic and the scenario is same all over India as international flights are restricted.
However, they expect that customers will arrive surely if borders are opened — centering the upcoming Puja holiday.
The losses faced in the last few months can be recovered to some extent if the borders are opened for this season, they said. The Indian High Commission in Dhaka issued 1.5 million visas to Bangladesh nationals in 2019, the highest for any single country.
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