How Covid-19 left its mark on the tourism industry of Bangladesh

Publish: 9:33 PM, September 15, 2021 | Update: 9:33:PM, September 15, 2021

Mohammad Abu Horaira
COVID-19 has created a significant impact with international travel bans affecting over 90% of the world population. An extensive restriction on public gatherings and community mobility, tourism mainly comes effect in March 2020. Especially Tourism is at a risk to assess to counteract pandemics because of restricting mobility and social distancing. International, regional and local travel restrictions immediately affected national economies, including tourism systems, i.e. international travel, domestic tourism, day visits and segments as diverse as air transportation, cruises, conveyance, accommodation, cafés and restaurants, conventions, festivals, meetings, or sports events. With international aviation rapidly slowed down as a result of the crisis, and lots of countries imposing travel bans, closing borders, or introducing quarantine periods, international and domestic tourism declined precipitously within a period of weeks. Countries scrambled to return travelers home, which within the case of important outbound markets involved many thousands of citizens altogether parts of the world.

Within countries, the virus affected virtually all parts of the hospitality value chain. The impact of cancelled events, closed accommodations, and pack up attractions became immediately felt in other parts of the availability chain, like catering and laundry services. Restaurants had to shut also, though, in some countries, a switch to take-away/delivery sales allowed some to continue operations. The scenario of the worldwide tourism system moved from over-tourism to non-tourism within the space of months, intensely demonstrated by blogs and newspaper articles showing popular tourism sites in ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs (Condé Nast Traveller, 2020). In the perspective of Bangladesh, we’ve 12-15 international chain five-star hotels. Besides we’ve quite 600 three and two-star rated hotels and motels and lots of small hotels and homestays are providing service in every corner of Bangladesh that isn’t on the list. These services are providing livelihood to thousands of individuals.

Tourism experts assume if the lockdown situation continues like this, Bangladesh will need to face an economic loss of quite BDT three billion. Research shows that half of 1,000,000 people that are directly or indirectly employed within the tourism and hospitality industry, are at the risk of losing their jobs. To sum up, the tourism industry of Bangladesh, also because the whole world goes to face an enormous disaster and this disastrous situation will continue till the COVID-19 situation normalizes.

The government of Bangladesh has announced a stimulus package to support the tourism sector, where banks will provide loans at 9 per cent interest. The government will bear 4.5 per cent interest and therefore the remaining 4.5 per cent are going to be borne by the business.

The government will provide 30 billion (BDT) capital for the COVID-19 affected industries and repair sector institutions through four packages according to a report published by Dhaka Tribune.

Tourism brings numerous benefits and advantages to hosting a country or a community, but mostly it depends on its nature and how it is defined and structured. Tourism significantly contributes towards the complete growth and development of a country by bringing numerous economic values and benefits as well as helping in build a country’s brand value, image, and identity. It is also a wide-ranging industry, which incorporates the hotel industry, the transport industry and a variety of additional industries or sectors. It is vital to know that the tourist industry is linked to movement to different locations, based not only on leisure, but also business, and a few additional travel motivators. Transportation, tour operators, travel agents, and accommodation are mainly the sectors of tourism supply and these are examined and the importance of cross?country integration between firms is highlighted. Tourism depends greatly on an authentic socio-cultural and unrestrained natural environment.

Oxford Economics and WTTC jointly produced an annual research report in 2017 that indicates Travel and Tourism to be one of the world’s largest sectors, aiding over 307 million jobs and generating 10.4% of global GDP. According to WTTC report the direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP of Bangladesh was BDT421.4bn (USD 5.3bn), 2.2% of total GDP in 2016 and is forecast to rise by 6.2% in 2017 and to upturn by 6.1% pa, from 2017-2027 to BDT 806.6bn (USD 10.2bn), 2.1% of total GDP in 2027. The tourism industry not only plays as a growth driver for a country, but also for the economy, and social progress. Tourism has evident impacts in several industries directly, and much more indirectly through tourism spends. Hence, tourism plays an important role in a country, for a community, for the society, for the economy, for growth and development, nature and environment, and the world. Moreover, tourism helps in understanding the cultural diversity, geographical, and historical facts of different regions and communities. Thus, tourism plays a major role in the social, cultural, economic, and environmental development of a nation.

The Tourism industry in Bangladesh has largely developed based on the major cities i.e. Dhaka, Sylhet, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Khulna and tourist destinations in Bangladesh along with other destinations. Moreover, Cox’s Bazar is understood as the tourism capital in Bangladesh. Most of the tourism infrastructure and superstructures are developed in these cities and these cities largely contribute to the tourism economy. Both the inbound and outbound tourism market has increased significantly in the last few years. International inbound leisure travel trips tourists’ arrival in Bangladesh recorded 1.02 million tourists in 2017 and also recorded 0.83 million in 2016. Bangladeshi residents’ outbound leisure trips are projected to be approximately 2.6 million trips by 2021, compared to the 2016 estimate of 2.3 million. The pandemic has an adverse effect on inbound tourism in and outbound Bangladesh due to the corona virus (Covid-19).

Outside the general public health sphere tourism has become one of the most public faces of COVID-19 within the international media. The character of the tourism system means tourism has both contributed to the spread of the disease and experienced the repercussions of the disease alongside all parts of the tourism value and provides chains. The disease’s global proximity and consequently the necessity of classic disease control within the sort of quarantine, reduced mobility and isolation have had a dramatic effect on international and domestic tourism alike alongside a variety of sector-specific impacts, including transport, travel and booking agencies, hospitality, restaurants, conventions and events, and attractions.

Hotels around the world face cancellations of bookings because of the pandemic crisis. As a result, the Hotel industry lost US$ 150 billion, mostly affecting the workers within the industry. So, the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on the hospitality industry are often evaluated using room booking cancellations and therefore the status of hotel industry workers. The hotel industry altogether world regions recorded a huge drop by the worldwide revenue per available room, e.g., Asia (-67.8%) and Europe (-61.7%). Also, the worldwide occupancies in countries decreased significantly in March 2020, from 20% to over 70% worldwide (UNWTO, 2020a).

The COVID-19 pandemic should cause a critical reconsideration of the worldwide volume growth model for tourism, for interrelated reasons of risks incurred in global travel also because of the sector’s contribution to climate change. The success stories of the Tourism Industry has been denominated by all dominant tourism organizations – UNWTO, ICAO, CLIA, or WTTC – as growth in tourism numbers.

Above all, the COVID-19 crisis should be taken as an opportunity to review and reconsider the tourism’s growth approach, and to query, the relevance of more arrivals suggested substantial benefits. This ought to start with an analysis of the positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, as we have been experiencing various declines in demand, airlines have begun to replace old and inefficient aircraft. Video conferences, a missed opportunity to reduce transport demand for years, has become widely adopted by home office workers, including students forced into distance learning, and business travelers avoiding non-essential air travel. A considerable number of business travelers will welcome opportunities to fly less. Notably, even high-level exchanges, like the G20 Leader’s meeting on 26 March 2020, has for the primary time been organized through video conference. After months of these new work arrangements, for how many organizations and workers will perceive the benefits of continued or partial adoption? More generally, views on mobility can also have changed in everyday contexts, as countries without full lockdown responses appear to possess seen a big rise in cycling and outdoor activities.

The tourism industry is an umbrella industry networked with many other sectors within the economy including hotel, community-level operations, education, financial, agriculture, medical, travel and transportation, construction, land, retail, and the other way around. Because the whole world is suffering from this COVID 19 pandemic, the tourism sector is one of the foremost victims of it. So, it’s time to debate about the difficulty and is available up with realistic recovery initiatives. Therefore, a few realistic recovery strategies for the tourism industries in Bangladesh within the post-viral world and can be:

Smart quarantine and tracing tools (digital) could be used to mark healthy and risk-free travelers, such as tolls like introducing on-arrival Smart SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) and Mobile Apps for international travelers. World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), concerning special attention, has already launched several practices to save the essentials of the tourism industry at present. The special campaign named “#Travel Tomorrow ?, has become the common thread that runs through the World Tourism Organization’s response to the current crisis, highlighting the enduring values of tourism. E.g. “By staying home today, we can travel tomorrow”. Sharing current and happening issues and knowledge’s on tourism with necessary stakeholders globally and locally.

Re-branding of tourism destinations after the pandemic situation highlighting the positive elements during the outbreak. Hoteliers, travel agents and other service providers should continuously keep in touch with key travelers and customer base during the outbreak to sustain linkage. Community-Based Tourism (CBT) should be properly encouraged with adequate resources to mitigate and recover from outbreaks.

The Writer is Associate Professor, College of Tourism and Hospitality Management (CTHM)
International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT)