The country's hotels, motels, resorts, guest houses and posh restaurants in major tourist sites have seen a surge in advance bookings on the occasion of the New Year 2022 amid growing concern over the new Omicron variant.
But there will be no outdoor celebrations anywhere in Cox's Bazar on safety grounds. The Cox's Bazar district administration and the law enforcing agencies have taken extra measures in this regard. The district administration has formed a special monitoring hub.
Some luxury hotels have cut short their previously announced indoor programmes for room guests and incoming guests to avoid any untoward incident that could aggravate the Covid-19 situation.
"We had 100% booking for this 31st night, but around 15% of the bookings were cancelled on Tuesday. I don't know whether the cancellation is the impact of the recent rape case in the city," Abdul Quadir Mishu, director of star hotel Ocean Paradise in Cox's Bazar, told TBS.
"We have special dinner arrangements and a cultural programme on the 31st night, which is exclusive for our room guests. No outside guest is allowed in our indoor events and we will close our gate after 6:00pm," he added.
Cox's Bazar is home to around 450 hotels, motels, resorts, guest houses and restaurants, according to industry insiders.
Around 60-70 lakh tourists annually come to the world's largest sea beach.
The hotels, motels, resorts and guest houses are experiencing a tourist boom with 80% to 100% occupancy as the peak season has already started. Most of the hotels in Cox's Bazar are fully occupied with advance booking for the 31st night.
"We have 85 rooms and our guest house is 100% booked till the first week of January. These guests are mainly coming to celebrate the New Year," Nizam Uddin Al Sumon, head of sales and marketing at Hotel Joltaranga, told TBS.
"We had planned to organize an in-house cultural programme, but we cancelled the event to avoid a mass gathering. We want to ensure a calm and quiet in-house atmosphere for our guests," he added.
He expects a maximum tourist presence in Cox's Bazar to ring in the New Year.
A similar situation prevails in Kuakata.
"All our 76 rooms are booked for the 31st night with family and couple guests. But we do not have any special arrangement to celebrate the New Year," said Al Amin, a booking staff at Parjatan Holiday Homes in Kuakata.
Meanwhile, tourist bookings till Tuesday were comparatively lower at hilly tourist sites than in beach areas to celebrate the New Year.
"We have currently 60% occupancy that is lower than in beach areas. We did not get the expected booking yet for the 31st night celebration," said Abdur Rahim, front officer, Hotel Hill View in Bandarban.
There will be an overflow of tourists in the popular tourist destinations in Sylhet division for the next couple of days.
"We are under huge pressure with our incoming guests on the occasion of the 31st night. We have 100% booking till the 31st night. Besides, we have indoor arrangements to celebrate New Year's Eve," corporate account manager of the Palace Luxury Resort Abul Kalam Azad told TBS.
The Palace Luxury Resort has 145 rooms where 350 to 450 guests can stay.
The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) may impose restrictions on open space programmes, fireworks and entry at specific areas on the 31st night on the eve of New Year 2022, hoteliers of Dhaka city told TBS.
In 2020, the DMP restricted meetings, gatherings or celebrations on rooftops, roads, flyovers or public places on the 31st night. No fireworks and cultural programmes or functions were allowed in open spaces,
Khaled-Ur-Rahman, managing director, Golden Tulip The Grand Mark Dhaka, a star hotel, said that a coordination meeting was held with hoteliers of Gulshan-Banani areas arranged by the deputy commissioner of Gulshan of DMP.
"We have only special dinner arrangements, 80% of which have already been booked. In our hotel, the occupancy is only 30%," he said.
Khaled Rahman said most of the room guests in the star hotels of Dhaka are business travellers.
At this point in the year, people enjoy year-end holidays, which makes the occupancy rate even lower in Dhaka hotels. Besides, guest presence is lower due to fears of Omicron transmission, he explained.
Taufiq Rahman, general secretary of Pacific Asia Travel Association (Bangladesh Chapter) told TBS that there was a prediction that domestic tourism would boom after the impact of the Covid pandemic was reduced. Those travellers who could not travel outside the country to celebrate the 31st night are now going to various domestic tourist sites to celebrate the New Year, he added.
He, however, said a good number of tourists are going to Cox's Bazar to celebrate New Year even after the recent rape incident. Hilly sites still could not be as attractive as the plain tourist sites or beaches due to communication and accommodation problems. This may be the reason for the lower number of tourist arrivals there for New Year celebrations, he added.
Resorts ready to welcome guests
The country has more than 200 resorts, according to the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC). The highest number of resorts is located in Gazipur district, with at least 76 registered establishments.
"During this peak season, our occupancy rate is in line with our expectations. However, New Year's Eve always boosts guest presence, which is the same this year. All our 50 rooms are 100% occupied,'' said Abul Hossain Aabir, head of sales of Chhuti Resort in Gazipur.
Khabir Uddin Ahmed, president of Tourism Resort Industries Association of Bangladesh (TRIAB) told TBS, "We are not arranging any special programme to welcome the New Year as we have faced restrictionsfrom the authorities earlier. But individual guests can enjoy themselves at the resort."