Mahim Overseas, a travel agency in Chattogram, usually sells around 100 tickets worth Tk30 lakh, to travelers for local and international routes, every day. However, its business has reduced to zero, since March 16, due to the global coronavirus crisis.
Ten employees of the agency, along with many others across the country, are now facing an uncertain future.
According to the Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (Atab), the country's 5,000 travel agencies have 50,000 employees. In addition to that, at least five lakh people – including middlemen and brokers – are involved in the sector which has ground to a halt.
Md Abu Zafar, president of Atab Chattogram, said travel agencies' activities have halted completely since flights from Bangladesh to India halted on March 15.
Atab sources said travel agencies in Bangladesh sell products and services worth Tk50,000 crore each year – the business is worth Tk137 crore per day. However, these agencies' operations have stopped completely as airlines across the globe have heavily limited their activities.
Former cultural secretary of Atab, Shahidul Islam Chowdhury said, "All the travel packages we offer have been cancelled as people are not interested in traveling to any destination amid the coronavirus scare. We cannot sell airplane tickets for tourism, The Hajj or any other package," said Shahidul Islam Chowdhury, chairman of Citycom International Travel Agency."
"The travel agencies in the country have yet to receive due bills amounting to around Tk5,000 crore," added Shahidul, chairman of Citycom International Travel Agency in Dhaka.
Tanvir Mehedi, reservation manager of Mahim Overseas, said his agency had to return 200 tickets in the last week.
He said, "Currently our ticket sales have dropped to zero. We do not know if we will be able to run the company after paying all the maintenance costs and salaries. We have never faced such a situation before."
Similarly, Fly Today, a travel agency in Chattogram, was closed a week ago and its seven employees are now unemployed.
Owner of the agency, Ahmed Rubel, said there was nothing he could do, so he shut down the company.
Shamim Chowdhury Noman, general secretary of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, said, "Sending workers abroad has now stopped completely and we do not know when this situation will improve."
Shamim said, the recruiting agencies sent 7.11 lakh people from Bangladesh to different countries in 2019. This year, 1.50 lakh people immigrated till March 9.
Requesting to remain anonymous, an employee at a travel agency said he did not receive his salary for the month of February and now he is afraid he will lose his job.