Tourism takes a nosedive this Eid for five reasons

  • Inflation pressure

  • Exorbitant dollar rates

  • High cost of airfare

  • Extreme hot weather

  • Chittagong Hill Tracts situation

Cox's Bazar sea beach File Photo:

People are getting a long holiday this time, covering both Eid and the Bangla New Year. A large section of the people is rushing in a festive mood from the cities to their homes in the villages. Some are going on vacation. Over the past few years, visiting tourist spots in the country and abroad has grown popular. But this time due to the inflation, people are cutting corners when it comes to travel. There are basically five reasons why people are less eager to travel this Eid compared to other years.

Persons involved in the tourism sector say that the global economic pressure has had an impact in the country too. People are struggling to meet their daily expenses. They can't really think of spending on luxuries like travel. The dollar rate is high. Airfare is high. This has put a dampener on foreign travel. Other than the high costs, the high temperatures are also not conducive to travel. And then there is the unrest in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. All these serve as deterrents to vacationing this time.

An official of a non-government organisation, Rafiuzaman, explained why he was not going on holiday. He said that for the last few years he had regularly somewhere or the other outside of the country during Eid. But this time there was no way he could manage the expenses. Travel costs have shot up. He plans to go on holiday next Eid.

People are struggling to meet their daily expenses. They can't really think of spending on luxuries like travel. The dollar rate is high. Airfare is high. This has put a dampener on foreign travel

Bangladesh Tour Operations Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) president Shiblul Azam Qureshi told Prothom Alo, they think that there will be fewer tourists this year compared to last year. The reasons could be the high expenses overseas due to the spiralling dollar rates, the hot weather and the prevailing situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

High cost of overseas travel

Every year around 300,000 to 400,000 people go on Eid holiday abroad. But TOAB member companies feel that this number is likely to drop this time. They say that India is the most popular holiday destination from Bangladesh. Also on the top popular destinations are Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Maldives is a recent favourite. Then there are those who go to Dubai and Vietnam. Fresh interest is growing to visit Kenya, Uzbekistan, Jordan and Kyrgyzstan too.

Proprietor of the travel agency Cosmos Holidays, Shabbir Ahmed, said there had been lesser bookings this Eid compared to last year.

Experior Holidays has been in the airline ticketing business for 20 years. The company's owner Syed Imran Alo said many are coming here to arrange overseas trips, but the airline ticket costs are so high that many of them are turning away.

TOAB member Syed Mahbubul Islam, long associated with tourism, told Prothom Alo the joy and enthusiasm is much lower this year that last year. People are not in a good financial state and travel is a luxury sector. Those who want to travel, don't have the money. Many are unable to buy airline tickets because of the high costs. That is why they are not getting much response from tourists.

Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Kuakata, Sylhet, Srimangal, Sundarban and Saint Martin's are the popular tourist spots in the country. Tourism is more or less closed in Cox's Bazar and Saint Martin at this time. Tourists are eager to visit the three hill districts to enjoy the Nababarsha hill festivals.

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Nababarsha (Bengali New Year) comes on the heels of Eid this year. TOAB members say there is not much interest in visiting the three hill districts this time. Foreign tourists haven't been given permission to visit the area for the past one year. All sorts of restrictions have been put in place regarding Bandarban visits. And now the situation is Bandarban is restive. Those associated with Bandarban tourism are not faring well. People are opting to visit Cox's Bazar, Kuakata and Sylhet instead this Eid. Travels agencies have come up with all sorts of packages to attract tourists. Hotels and resorts are offering discounts too.

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Around 300,000 to 350,000 tourists may visit Cox's Bazar this time. There are over 550 hotels, motels and resorts in this most popular tourist spot. These hotels together have a capacity to accommodate over 200,000 guests. The local Hotel-Motel, Guesthouse Owners Association says that the bookings are most from the day after Eid. The year the hotels and guesthouses were fully booked even before Eid. That hasn't happened this year so far.

President of the Tourism Resort Industries Association of Bangladesh, Khabir Ahmed told Prothom Alo that the resorts are getting a good response. However, the Cox's Bazar Hotel-Motel, Guesthouse Owners Association president Abul Kasem Sikder told Prothom Alo, till Sunday, 30 per cent books have been confirmed. He hopes for a 100 per cent booking by today or tomorrow.

Nilanchal tourist spot in Bandarban district town
Prothom Alo

Extra alert in tourist spots

Tourist police will be deployed in 104 tourist areas of the country. The police supers in all districts will lend them support. Deputy inspector general (DIG) of the tourist police, Md Abu Kalam Siddique, told Prothom Alo, the more the people travel within the country, the better it is for the economy. Security measures have been beefed up also that people can travel during the long Eid and Pahela Baishakh (new year) holiday. Security has been strengthened in the hilly region too. Police have been deployed in Sajek.

Tourist police sources say that close circuit cameras have been set up in Cox's Bazar, Kuakata and Patenga and the centres are under surveillance from Dhaka. Intercoms have been set up at Cox's Bazar's Sugandha, Kalatali, Laboni and Inani beaches for people to call the police in case of emergency. The tourist police have stepped up security in the hill areas too.

The Bangladesh chapter secretary general of Pacific Asia Travel Association, Toufiq Rahman, told Prothom Alo, many people in the country nowadays make their own booking at hotels and resorts instead of coming to a travel agency. But the timing of the holiday is not that good this time. The weather is hot, then there is the Bandarban situation, all deterring tourism. Lesser people are travelling abroad this time too, compared to last year.