Silent silence all around. Occasionally there is the chirping of birds. Employees no longer have that preoccupation. Birds have become guests as there are no tourists. In the green branches of the trees, in the courtyard below, their loud music is arranged everywhere.
This picture was seen recently while visiting the Meghla tourist area of Bandarban district town. Once upon a time, the area was full of tourists. Now there are no tourists. As there was no work, some employees were sitting in their chairs and relaxing. Around the other tourist spots in the district, almost the same scene was seen.
The situation is similar to Bandarban in the other two hill districts of Rangamati and Khagrachari. The mountainous green forest, the largest lake in the country, the traditional religious sites, the serenity of the springs the highlands. These are the floating eyes. It is very difficult for a traveler to ignore all these. Millions of tourists flock to the three districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts to attract this natural beauty of the mountains. Coronavirus-infested tourist spots are now empty, despite being once a year-round presence of tourists from home and abroad. Entrepreneurs are suffering from financial losses. And the workers are becoming unemployed due to layoffs.
The Corona epidemic has wreaked havoc on the mountain tourism industry. In the last four months alone, the loss has been more than 100 crores. About three thousand workers have lost their jobs. The traders claim that there is no alternative to launching limited tourist destinations to overcome these losses. However, a limited number of tourist destinations have been opened in Rangamati. The process of opening in the remaining two districts is underway.
About two and a half hundred hotels, motels, and resorts have been built here. An average of two to two and a half lakh tourists visit the three hill districts every month during the busy season.
Around two and a half to three hundred crore rupees are traded annually around mountain tourism. The annual income of the tourism industry in Bangladesh is about 5 thousand crore rupees.
The above financial accounts were obtained by talking to traders’ associations, hotel-motel owners’ associations, tour operators’ associations, launch associations, and tourism-related researchers and experts in the three districts. Despite the expansion of tourism in the country and in the mountains, no specific information was available from any of the concerned agencies about this sector.
On the spot
Recently, a representative of Prothom Alo visited the Meghla Tourist Center in Bandarban. In his presence, the staff woke up. They said all the tourists and hotels and motels in the district have been closed for four months since last March. Nilachal, Swarnamandir, Ramjadi, Shailprapat, Chimbuk, Nilgiri, Boga Lake, Keokradong, Nafakum — there is emptiness everywhere now.
Alutila Cave and Mayabini Lake in Khagrachhari were well attended by tourists at normal times. Recently, he was not seen on the spot. The centers are squealing.
Shuvlong Jharna is one of the most attractive tourist spots in the Rangamati district. Throughout the year, thousands of tourists came to see the suspension bridge. The suspension bridge of the Rangamati Tourist Complex is wailing due to lack of visitors.
Recently visited Shuvlong Jharna, restaurants and tourist spots in Kaptai Lake, Chang Pang, Mejang, Bara Gang, Peda Ting Ting, and Gang Sabarang.
Loss due to corona push 109 crore
Among the three hill districts, Bandarban has the highest number of tourists. On an average, more than 5,000 tourists come to enjoy the beauty of Bandarban every day during the tourist season. At this time it became difficult to find a place in hotels, motels, and resorts. Tourists flock to this district at other times of the year as well.
The tourism sector in Bandarban has come to a complete standstill due to the impact of the Corona during the peak season. Traders have to calculate an average loss of Tk 50 lakh every day. The traders said that they have had to pay a loss of around Tk 75 crore in the last five months. And after Korona in Rangamati, the loss of the traders in the tourism sector is about 22 crore rupees. The amount of this loss in Khagrachari is 12 crore rupees.
The idea of tourism traders, the amount of this loss due to Corona will increase further upfront. Many of them have lost capital and the ability to start a business again. So at the moment, there is no option to introduce a limited range of tourism.
Residential hotel-motel owners say there is no income. There is no work. Even then the employees have to pay salaries. But hundreds of families dependent on tourism have lost their livelihood.
Sirajul Islam, general secretary of the Bandarban Residential-Hotel-Motel Owners’ Association, told Prothom Alo that there are opportunities for people of at least 11 classes and professions to benefit financially behind a tourist. About 55,000 people of Bandarban are directly and indirectly involved in the tourism business. Now that everything is closed, almost everyone is suffering financially. Therefore, it is important to open this tourism sector, which is the biggest employment and income-generating district of the district, in compliance with the hygiene rules.
Ananta Bikash Tripura, general secretary of the Khagrachhari Hotel-Motel Owners Association, said the hill tourism business is booming throughout the year. Most of the tourists come to Vaisabi and two Eids. But this time Corona has been pushed.
Rangamati’s tourism industry suffered extreme losses after the catastrophic landslide on June 13, 2016. Don’t make up for that loss as if it were a blow to the head.
More than half of the workers were laid off
Talking to tourism businessmen, it was learned that there are 55 hotels and motels in Rangamati town and 103 resort-cottages in Sajek. There are 70 hotels and motels in Bandarban. There are 30 in Khagrachari. More than 5,000 people were employed in these residential establishments. Most of them received money on a daily basis. But more than half of them lost their jobs due to Corona’s push. Those who are, they are getting nominal salary. They are also at risk of losing their jobs if this situation is prolonged.
Not only the hotel and motel workers are being affected, but also the tour guides, the owners of the shops in the tourist centers, the clothes sellers, the drivers and driver assistants, the employees of the food shops, the shipping workers are also on the list.
Rangamati Tourism Corporation manager Srijan Bikash Barua said tourists were not coming due to the ban. As a result, they had to calculate a loss of Tk 35 lakh per month.
Rangamati Hotel-Motel Association President. Moin Uddin Selim told Prothom Alo that more than 300 employees have been laid off from hotels and motels after the administration announced the closure of tourist centers. Now some businessmen have started renting groceries and houses in residential hotels. You have to do something to survive.
They are also in trouble
The shopkeepers of the tourist centers are also in trouble like the employees of the residential hotels and the sailors. One of the major attractions for tourists visiting the highlands is the collection of cloth woven in the hills. Tourists also collect various memorabilia made by them. People in this sector are also in danger due to the non-arrival of tourists.
Siam Bom, a mountaineer from Bandarban, made a living by selling loom cloth and garden fruits. “People don’t come,” he said. Some are not sold. The money saved is also running out. I am thinking about the day ahead. ‘
What is the administration thinking?
Entrepreneurs, workers, and dependents of the tourism sector in the hill districts are now living a helpless life. They think that there is no alternative to launching tourist centers to get rid of this situation. He says that even if the health rules are maintained and social distance is maintained, the centers should be opened. This is their appeal to the administration.
However, officials said the administration has agreed to open limited tourist destinations after Eid al-Adha.
The same was said by Kamrul Islam, Deputy Collector of Bandarban Deputy Commissioner’s Office. However, in this case, steps will be taken as per the instructions of the ministry, he said.
However, Khagrachhari Deputy Commissioner Pratap Chandra Biswas said that new corona patients are being identified in Khagrachhari every day. In this case, it would be risky to open the tourist centers.
One of the attractions is the highlands
Santosh Kumar Deb, Associate Professor, Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Dhaka University, has been writing about the country’s tourism sector for a long time. Talking to him on mobile phone about the tourism sector of the country and the highlands. Corona’s impact on the tourism sector catastrophe and financial losses were highlighted by Prothom Alo. He suggested that in order to overcome this situation, tourist centers should be set up on a limited scale and in compliance with health norms.
Santosh Kumar Dev said that there is a risk of loss of around Tk 6,000 crore in the tourism sector due to Corona. But if the Corona situation continues for a long time, the damage to the tourism sector will increase. About three lakh people in this sector are at risk of employment. As part of human livelihood, it is necessary to take initiative to introduce tourist centers in a limited range in compliance with hygiene rules.