The number of foreign nationals arriving in Bangladesh has declined to a great extent against the background of the coronavirus epidemic, with hoteliers and tour operators saying their businesses have been badly affected.
They said foreign visitor arrivals have fallen by 90 percent while hotel occupancy rate has declined by 30 percent.
Many visitors from different countries have already cancelled their pre-booked visits to Bangladesh, according to tour companies.
"We were expecting six to seven groups from Europe and Japan who were to visit the Sundarbans and different heritage sites in March. But they have all cancelled their visits," said Masud Hossain, managing director of Bengal Tours.
"I have faced losses of around Tk76 lakh in the last 20 days," he told The Business Standard.
Taufiq Rahman, chief executive officer of tour operator Journey Plus, said five visitor groups of his company had cancelled their February and March trips to Bangladesh.
"All of them were from Europe. Each group comprised 15-21 members. Since the coronavirus outbreak, the tour companies have suffered losses of around Tk10 crore", he said.
Dragon Boat Tours and Travels mainly deals with visitors from China and South Asian countries.
Rabbi Khan, chief executive officer of the company, noted that 17-18 visitor groups had cancelled their February trips. Most of them were from China.
"The turnover would have been a minimum of Tk3 crore but now it is zero. We are in big trouble and have never faced such an unpleasant situation in the past," he added.
According to the Bangladesh Tourism Board, the number of foreign visitors went up by around 130 percent over the last five years. The country welcomed 1.4 lakh foreign tourists in 2015 and the number was around 3.2 lakh last year.
The rising hospitality sector has also been affected by the coronavirus epidemic.
"About 1,000 night stays in our hotel were cancelled. However, the occupancy of restaurants, bars and banquet halls remains normal," said Shahid Hamid, executive director of Dhaka Regency Hotel and Resort Limited.
Jane Alam Shawon, director (revenue strategy) of The Westin Dhaka, said the average occupancy rate is 75 percent at this time of the year in the hotel.
"But after the coronavirus epidemic, occupancy has declined by 53 percent," he added.
Syed Golam Qadir, an adviser to the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh, said, "We are safe from the coronavirus epidemic but have failed to inform foreign visitors that there has been no outbreak of the virus in Bangladesh yet.
"This is why the number of foreign visitors has gone down," he added.
Toufique Rahman, general secretary of Pacific Asia Travel Association's Bangladesh chapter, said, "A tourism crisis management team is a must to tackle the sudden eruption of a big issue like coronavirus. The team will give guidelines to the industry stakeholders."