Amid the Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh, the government has allowed tourist spots to resume their services hosting lower than their respective capacities – for visitors to ensure compliance with social distancing.
It has also recommended the size of a group tour package be kept limited to only 10-15 people maintaining social distancing rules, according to the recently-prepared Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Tourism.
The Bangladesh Tourism Board has recently finalised its SOP to reopen the tourism and hospitality sectors amid the pandemic.
Tour operators said they are ready to follow the guidelines about the group tour packages despite them impacting their business.
"We demanded the number of tourists in a group be limited amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. Although it will impact the business temporarily, we appreciate the decision," said Toufiq Rahman, chief executive of Journey Plus, a tour operating company.
The recently-prepared SOP details the procedures of a whole journey by a tourist, including: dealings with tour guides, staying in hotels, having meals in restaurants, and so on.
It instructs tour operators to ensure online booking and payment facilities for tourists.
It adds that foreign tourists should ensure their health insurance before booking a tour, keep a health certificate with them and get visas from their home countries to avoid any possible hassles for an on-arrival visa.
Meanwhile, the tour operators and travel agents have to ensure at least 30 minutes of physical exercise in the workplace to increase the immunity of the service providers, according to the new procedures.
Other SOP guidelines require the staff and guests: wear masks and gloves, have their temperatures checked, use soap or hand sanitiser, maintain social distancing, have their accommodation and vehicles disinfected, etc.
The tourism board said the person or organisation providing the best service in the tourism sector, in accordance with the SOP, will be rewarded.
The SOP was the most-desired guideline for the worst affected tourism service providers – like tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers, resort and restaurant owners, plus others – to restart their businesses amid Covid-19.
Mohammad Saiful Hasan, deputy director of the tourism board and also member secretary of the SOP formulating committee, said the SOP will increase the confidence of foreign and domestic tourists in the tourism-related service sector of Bangladesh.
The operating manuals have been formulated following the guidelines of the World Tourism Organization, World Health Organization and Pacific Asia Travel Association; as well as suggestions by tourism stakeholders, he added.
On May 28, the Bangladesh Tourism Board formed a committee to prepare the SOP following the persistent demands of all the tourism associations.
Earlier, the World Tourism Organization released a set of guidelines to help the country's tourism sector emerge stronger and more sustainably from Covid-19.
Protocols for tourist accommodations
Both employees and guests in a hotel, motel, resort, guest house, and homestay need to follow the set protocols for the maximum health safety in accommodations, according to the SOP.
The authority needs to properly check PCR test reports or medical reports of foreign tourists during check-in at the hotel and record their information and travel history, it also says.
A special response team should be formed in each tourist accommodation facility to look after health, hygiene and safety issues there, as well as maintain communication with the district novel coronavirus infection prevention committee, it adds.
Although the tourism ministry has prepared the SOP after many days, the chain and star category hotels have been following their own operating manuals.
Shahid Hamid, executive director of Dhaka Regency Hotel and Resort, said, "We, the hoteliers, have made sure our manuals and chain hotels are following their company guidelines."
Health insurance has been encouraged for not only foreign tourists but also Bangladeshi expatriates.
"It is not mandatory but we are recommending tourists have it for their betterment," said Mohammad Saiful Hasan, deputy director of the tourism board.
Sheikh Kabir Hossain, president of the Bangladesh Insurance Association, said it would be good for the insurance sector if insurance were required for travellers in the Covid-19 context. It will benefit the tourists and their families.
Guidelines for tourist vehicles
The already issued guidelines by the Road and Highways Division for general transportation will also apply to: tourist buses, coaches, cars, and other vehicles.
No vehicle can carry more passengers than half their capacity mentioned on their motor registration. No passenger may be transported standing, either, according to the directive.
Further, tourist vessels and railway transportation will have to follow the directives issued by the ministries concerned. The notification also described the entry procedure for tourists at: airports, land ports, seaports, and river ports.