Tourism falls locally, more interest in holidaying abroad

The world's longest sea beach in Cox's Bazar is the most popular tourist spot in the countryFile Photo

During Eid, other than returning home to celebrate the festival with the family, many rush off to various tourism spots over the holidays. But this time inflation, hot weather, and high air fare have put a dampener on tourism. Most hotels and resorts in various tourist spots of the country are vacant. In fact, there is more interest in holidaying abroad.

This was gathered from speaking to Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB), Association of Travel Agencies of Bangladesh (ATAB), Pacific Asia Travel Association Bangladesh, Tourism Resort Industries Association of Bangladesh, Cox's Bazar Hotel-Motel-Guest House Owners Association, several travel agencies and tourist police.

With people's interest in tourism growing, expenses in the tourism sector have increased too, say persons involved in the sector. They say, after the Covid pandemic, air fare began to rise. Air fare from Bangladesh to various destinations has multiplied. That is a disincentive for foreign travel. As for tourism within the country, pressure of everyday expenses discourages local travel too.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, TOAB president Shiblul Azam Qureshi said, the pressure of tourists is generally less during Eid-ul Azha compared to during Eid-ul Fitr. But this time tourists are even less interested than last qurbani Eid. He feels that this is because of economic pressure, the hot weather, and the increased price of air tickets.

Tourist police will be deployed for security in 104 tourism spots. The superintendents of police will provide them with support in every district. Closed circuit cameras have been set up in Cox's Bazar, Kuakata and Patenga and these spots are being monitored from Dhaka. Special security has also been arranged in Cox's Bazar's Sugandha, Kalatali, Laboni and Inani sea beaches.

Fear in the hills, inclement weather at Cox's Bazar

Several TOAB members have said that Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Kuakata, Sylhet, Srimangal, the Sundarbans and St Martin Island are popular tourist destinations within the country. Tourism in the Sundarbans and St Martin Island basically comes to a halt during this time, but for over a year now foreign tourists haven't been given permission to visit the hill tract areas. Various restrictions have been imposed on visiting Bandarban for the past nine months.

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The heat also causes a fall of visitors to Rangamati. Some are visiting Sajek to enjoy the rain and clouds. But half of June is over and there hardly has been much rainfall. The resorts in Srimangal, however has quite a lot  of bookings for after Eid. The travel agencies are offering all sorts of packages to attract tourists. Hotels and resorts are offering discounts too.

The hotels and resorts in Cox's Bazar are offering the biggest price cuts. The world's longest sea beach in Cox's Bazar is the country's most attractive destination. There are over 500 hotels, motels and resorts there, with an accommodation capacity of over 200,000.  The local hotel-motel-guest house owners association says that the booking mostly starts from the day after Eid. Booking this year is much less than last year. Saint Martin is closed. The choppy sea and extreme heat have closed travel to Maheskhali and Sonadia too. That is why the tourists are not so enthusiastic.

General secretary of the Cox's Bazar Hotel-Motel-Guest House Owners Association, Selim Newaz, speaking to Prothom Alo said, till yesterday, Sunday, 10 to 12 per cent booking has been confirmed. As it is, pressure is low during qurbani Eid. This time around 20,000 to 40,000 tourists are expected. Even discounts aren't brining in the visitors.

New destinations include Kenya, Uzbekistan, Jordan and Kyrgyzstan. While there is more interest in foreign travel, many are unable to go. People are more eager to visit places where visas are easier to get and travel is less costly

Airfare prohibitive

Every year 300,000 to 400,000 people go abroad during the Eid holidays. But this figure is likely to drop this year. While visits within the country start the day after Eid, visits abroad start from beforehand. India is the most popular destination outside of the country. There has been quite a lot of pressure by road to India and over the past few days thousands of people have been thronging the Benapole border. They have to wait for hours in the immigration line.

Dipak Kumar Roy of Bejpara, Jashore, on Thursday went with his cancer-afflicted wife to India by road. It took them around six hours to have all the papers checked and cross the Benapole-Petrapole immigration.

Officer-in-Charge of the Benapole immigration police Azharul Islam said that on the occasion of Eid, from Thursday till Saturday, over 24,000 people traveled to and from both the countries. During normal times this number remains within 5000 to 6000, but this time a record number of people are travelling, mostly for Eid and on medical grounds.

After India, the most popular destinations are Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Maldives has joined the list over the past few years.

Outside of that, some travel to Dubai and Vietnam. TOAB members say it is hard to get visas for the UAE and Turkey. While Bhutan has reduced travel tax, airline tickets are costly and so tourists turn away. New destinations include Kenya, Uzbekistan, Jordan and Kyrgyzstan. While there is more interest in foreign travel, many are unable to go. People are more eager to visit places where visas are easier to get and travel is less costly.

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