Political turmoil is impacting Bangladesh’s tourism with tour operators saying foreign tourist flow has dropped sharply in recent weeks.
They say non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) have also cancelled their trips to avoid getting caught up in the violence during strikes and blockades.
Foreign ministry data indicate a flow to 300,000-400,000 foreign tourists every year.
The peak tourist season begins in November and lasts until April.
Toufiq Rahman, Director of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB), told bdnews24.com, “This year the situation is getting worse. The tourist inflow is running alarmingly low.
“A number of tours have been cancelled as the political situation is worsening. Our fellow operators from outside the country are also concerned. We are making losses.
“Around 500 foreign tourists who booked for December are yet to come. We are not taking chances and the tours have been cancelled,” said Rahman, CEO of ‘Journey Plus’.
According to his figures, the industry will lose at least Tk 40 million in December alone.
“The resorts and hotels are also facing trouble. About 250 to 300 hotels in Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati and Kuakata are without guests at the moment. Some of them are laying off.”
TOAB wants political parties to exempt tourists from the purview of their agitation.
“We tried to meet politicians to discuss this, but they do not seem to be interested,” said Rahman.
The political situation of the country is getting from bad to worse as the Opposition appears determined to intensify its agitation which has already led to deaths and much destruction.
Private airlines United Airways’ AGM (Marketing) Kamrul Islam told bdnews24.com: “Though our traffic does not depend on tourists but I can say we have lost many passengers during the recent strikes and blockades.”
Akter Ahmed, Communication Officer of Bangladesh Tourism Board, told bdnews24.com, “The tourist inflow is very poor this year. As the season has just begun we do not have any statistics, but business is not good.”
“A large number of tourists cancelled their trips” he added.
Khorshed Alam Chowdhury, the tourism secretary, told bdnews24.com, “We are talking to the industry stakeholders about what to do and how. We are very much concerned.”
“They (Tour operators) are proposing to introduce coloured number plates for vehicles carrying tourists. If it happened it will be wonderful.
“If we all decide to be friendly with tourist vehicles, then there would be no problems.”
But only that is respected by the agitators on the street, some of whom hurl a bomb or fling a brickbat even before they have seen number plates.