The hoteliers in major tourist destinations were in a good mood for the last few months as the number of guests they received was increasing, but the fresh wave of Covid-19 has diminished their joys.
On Thursday, the Cox's Bazar district administration announced the closure of all recreational centers including the sea beach in the district until 14 April, in an effort to curb the spread of novel coronavirus.
The decision has already made an impact on the hotels of Cox's Bazar as the guests are cancelling their advance bookings, said the hotel owners.
The authorities have also closed tourist spots in Kuakata sea beach and Chattogram Hill Tracts within the last few days, while the Forest Department has closed tourist spots including the Sundarbans under its authority.
During the closure, no public gathering or rally can be held in Cox's Bazar, but hotels, motels and restaurants can operate with 50% occupancy by following the hygiene rules, according to the local administration's directives.
The operation of tourist ships from Cox's Bazar and Teknaf to St Martin's Island will also remain suspended.
Most starred hotels in Cox's Bazar achieved occupancy of pre-pandemic level in the last few months, but currently it is no more than 20-30%.
Cox's Bazar has around 450 hotels, motels and resorts. The tourist spot reopened for travelers on 17 August last year.
Nizam Uddin Al Sumon, head of sales and marketing of five-star hotel Jol Tarongo in Cox's Bazar, said Friday, "We had 80% occupancy from September last year to mid-March this year. But we lost 50% booking since last week amid a fresh wave of Covid-19 and had been giving back the advance booking money to the clients."
"The guests who were scheduled to come within the next two weeks are now rescheduling their bookings. Today, we have 50% occupancy," he said.
"Generally, the number of travelers decreases during the holy month of Ramadan, but we have many guests during the Eid vacation. The customers have not cancelled the bookings for this Eid vacation," he added.
The Royal Tulip Sea Pearl Beach Resort's duty manager Bappy told TBS on Friday that currently only 30% of their rooms were occupied, and the many of the expected guests were cancelling their bookings.
The Ocean Paradise is another five-star hotel in Cox's Bazar which has 200 rooms. The hotel had guests in only 35 rooms on 29 March, which is only 17.5% of its capacity.
"We had around 50% occupancy till February this year. When the Covid-19 infection rate increased again, we started losing both the corporate and individual bookings, which is still continuing," said Abdul Quader Mishu, director of the Ocean Paradise.
Abul Kashem, general secretary of the Cox's Bazar Hotel, Motel, Guesthouse Owners Association, said there are now at least 30,000-40,000 tourists in Cox's Bazar.
He said the hoteliers started to send around 50% of the staff members on leave to maintain social distance at their premises.
"The starred hotels had been doing good business with 70-75% occupancy for the last few months but the fresh wave of pandemic affected them now," he added.
According to a new guideline from the prime minister's office on 29 March, more than 50% of the capacity of hotel-restaurants should be kept vacant. Besides, public gathering should be restricted in the tourist spots.
Kuakata sea beach closed
Around 130 hotels and motels in the Kuakata beach area have started to face a shortage of guests this month due to the spike in Covid-19 infections.
In such a situation, the Patuakhali district administration has announced a two-week closure of the Kuakata tourist spot. The order will remain in force from 1-15 April.
Following the directive, all residential hotels and motels in Kuakata have cancelled their advance bookings. All food shops have also been instructed to remain closed.
"We have already informed the owners of all the hotels here about the government announcement. All advance bookings have been cancelled while many tourists have already left Kuakata," said Abdul Motaleb Sharif, general secretary of the Kuakata Hotel-Motel Owners Association.
Bhabesh Kar, staff of the Parjatan Holiday, Kuakata, said last Wednesday, "Today, we have guests in only two rooms among 73. After reopening the hotel on 1 July last year, we had guests in 25-30 rooms regularly."
New Covid-19 wave hits the hoteliers in hilly sites
Hotels and motels in Bandarban reopened on 21 August, Rangamati on 22 August, and Sajek Valley in Khagrachhari on 1 September 1 last year.
The districts administrations have declared the popular tourist destinations in these hilly areas closed again.
Rangamati Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mizanur Rahman told TBS that they have ordered closure of all tourist spots across the district for two weeks from 1 April. He said no guests are allowed to stay in the hotels and resorts during this period.
He mentioned that Bandarban and Khagrachhari administration have also taken a similar decision.
"We are facing the effects of a new wave since last week. We had only 20% occupancy in the last two days," manager of hotel Hill View, Bandarban told TBS on 30 March.
He mentioned that 70-80% of their rooms were occupied for the last two months.
Mong Chi Chowdhury, an official of Parjatan Motel Khagrachari, said "After reopening in September last year, we received more guests than we did before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. We had only 8% occupancy last Tuesday."
Meanwhile, Moin Uddin Khan, Conservator of Forest of Sundarban (Khulna Circle) told TBS that there is a possibility of closing the Sundarbans for tourists. However, they are waiting for the decision from higher authority.
Deputy Chief Conservator of Forest Gobinda Roy said that they are consulting with the forest ministry regarding the decision.
Starred hotels in Dhaka never achieved pre-pandemic occupancy level
Meanwhile, the starred hotels in Dhaka currently do not have the more than 30% occupancy rate. The hoteliers fear that the percentage will decrease in the coming days.
They said they were not getting customers as the international guests have been not coming to our country amid the travel restrictions and flight shortage.
Janealam Shawon, director (revenue strategy) of Dhaka Westin, said on Tuesday, "We have 30% occupancy since December last year which is not normal compared to the pre-Covid-19 period. The occupancy rate will decrease in coming days due to the high infection rate of Covid-19."
Sharfuddin Newaz, director (sales and marketing) of the Radisson Blu Dhaka, also voiced a similar opinion.