Faridul Alam Shahin: The tourism sector is affected by the overall political situation of the country around the elections. December is the best time for tourism. Due to favorable travel weather and school-college holidays, there is no place to hold sesame seeds in the main tourist areas of the country including Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban, Sundarbans, Sylhet. This time the picture is completely different. Hotels and restaurants are not able to attract tourists even with attractive offers. No one dares to go out for fear of fire and vandalism.
Tourism stakeholders complain that there is a drought in the tourism sector due to political unrest.
Sales of airline and bus tickets to tourist destinations have collapsed. In spite of providing many facilities along with more discounts, there are not enough customers in hotels-resorts, restaurants and other tourism related establishments. If this continues, the stakeholders involved in the tourism sector will have to sit in the way.
Tourists expressed anger that they could not go with their families during the peak season of tourism. They complain that now the children’s school-college exams are over. At the end of the year, everyone plans to go to the tourist areas of the country. But due to the ongoing political situation, they are afraid to go out with their families. Therefore, they called upon the political parties to think of alternatives to fulfill their demands.
On October 28, BNP-Jamaat held a mass meeting in Dhaka to demand the resignation of the Awami League government and the upcoming parliamentary elections under a neutral interim government. BNP clashed with the police on that day. Since then, BNP has been observing continuous strike-blockade. Jamaat is in the field supporting their program. As a result, miscreants are vandalizing vehicles and setting fire to various roads and highways of the country including Dhaka in every program.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association, miscreants set fire and vandalized 497 bus-trucks across the country including Dhaka during the strike-blockade from October 28 to December 20. The estimated loss is Tk 47.95 crore. During this time, the loss of public transport and truck-covered vans in various districts outside Dhaka and other districts has caused a loss of more than Tk 18 thousand crore.
When asked, Dhaka Road Transport Owners Association office secretary Samdani Khandkar told, “Due to BNP-Jamaat’s hartal-blockade, the buses that transport passengers to tourist destinations have reduced on average 70 percent of passengers. And due to the shortage of passengers, buses are running less. The transport sector is being severely affected by this.
BNP-Jamaat also observed hartal across the country on Tuesday (December 19). Miscreants set fire to Mohanganj Express in Tejgaon station area in the first hour of this program. Four passengers died in the fire. Earlier on December 13 during the siege, miscreants cut the Joydevpur-Mymensingh railway line at Sreepur in Gazipur district. Four coaches of the Mohanganj Express derailed and fell into the nearby canal. One passenger was killed in the incident.
The private airlines of the country said that the number of passengers in the tourist destinations was comparatively less during last November and the beginning of this month due to strike-blockade. General Manager (Public Relations) of US-Bangla Airlines Kamrul Islam toldin this regard, “The average number of passengers on domestic routes was 15 percent less during the strike-blockade last November.” Passengers are decreasing especially in tourist destination Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Sylhet. However, due to the completion of school-college exams, there is a demand for air passengers. Apart from this, passenger demand is increasing on domestic routes as well as international destinations ahead of Christmas and New Year.
Farooq Alam is a resident of Shantinagar in the capital. By profession, an employee of a private company. He is planning to go to Cox’s Bazar for a three-day visit on the night of December 29. But they are afraid to travel with their families by road due to strike-blockade. He also cannot afford to go to Cox’s Bazar by air. Still, last Tuesday (December 19) went to a travel agency office in Fakirapool to find out the cost of Dhaka-Cox’s Bazar-Dhaka flight tickets.
Talked with Farooq Alam. He said, “Every year in December, I go outside Dhaka with my family. But this time, I am afraid to go on the road with my family due to strike-blockade. So, I am looking for how the fare will be on the plane. But the cost is almost three times higher by air than by road. Again, I am not getting a return ticket to Cox’s Bazar on the newly launched Cox’s Bazar Express train at a low cost.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics Tourism Satellite Account 2020, the contribution of the tourism sector to the country’s GDP in the fiscal year 2018-19 was three percent. Besides, the total employment in this sector was four percent that year.
The tourist season in the country usually runs from November to mid-April. The winter months are the peak season. Apart from about 500 hotels, motels and resorts, Cox’s Bazar is the top tourist spot in the country with more than 2,000 eateries. But due to political unrest, drought is going on in this sector, said Saeed Alamgir, Public Relations Officer of Ocean Paradise. He told, “Cox’s Bazar tourists are supposed to stay at full swing at this time.” But from October 28 to December 14, there is a drought in tourism. Tourists are increasing slightly since December 16. We expect to get some tourists till December 31.
He said, ‘Earlier, during the tourism season, there were reports in the media that tourists spent the night on the streets without getting a hotel room. Besides, in the past there was a traffic jam on the road from 11 am to 9 pm. People went to the beach at night too. This year it is the opposite. Now the road to Cox’s Bazar is empty.
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