The tourism industry in Cox's Bazar has incurred a loss of Tk2,500 crore in the last two months because of the lockdowns imposed to prevent Covid-19 infections.
The business with more than 500 hotels, motels, restaurants in the tourist city and hundreds of shops selling products made of dried oysters and snails has counted the losses, said Abu Morshed Chowdhury Khuka, president Cox's Bazar Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
He said "The coronavirus pandemic is having a debilitating impact on the tourism sector of the city. Unless the situation is normal or the tourism business is not reopened in compliance with strict hygiene rules, it is impossible to recover from the losses they have endured."
Abdul Quader Mishu, director of Ocean Paradise Hotel & Resort, said "There were no tourists in the city since 1 April. The 250-room hotel was completely empty. We have to count the daily loss of around Tk4 lakh in paying officer-employees' salary, utility bills, installment of bank loans and others."
Abu Taleb, manager of hotel The Cox's Today, said the hotel has been empty since the beginning of the ongoing lockdown. The daily loss is going up to Tk3 lakh for various expenses including employees' salary and utility bill.
These stories are not isolated ones. Since the pandemic started, about 450 facilities of the hospitality sector - including hotels and guest houses, motels, cottages and flats - have been struggling to survive due to lack of tourists.
Abul Kashem Sikder, general secretary of Federation of Tourism Owners Association Cox's Bazar, said in the last 52 days, the daily loss to about 400 hotels-motels in the tourist city is about Tk10 crore. And more than 250 restaurants have to count losses of about Tk3 crore. Other hotel-related service sectors have faced a loss of around Tk7 crore.
Cox's Bazar has 45 starred hotels and 230 medium quality hotels. 709 hotels, motels and restaurants are the members of the association.
Hotel-Motel Officers' Association Organising Secretary Riad Iftekher said the tourism-related business will be on the verge of collapse if the tourists are not allowed to travel to the beach on a limited scale in compliance with the hygiene rules.
Mukim Khan, secretary of Kalatali Marine Drive Hotel Resort Owners Association, said at least 5,000 employees become unemployed due to the closure of 52 hotels and motels. Most of the employees were not paid salaries and allowances. So the beach should be opened even if on a limited scale.
Hotel-Motel Officers Association General Secretary Kalim Ullah said since the announcement of the lockdown, most hotels, motels and guesthouses have sent 93% of their employees on compulsory leave. At present, five to six percent of the employees are staying in hotels and motels to guard their assets.
Rezaul Karim, president of Tour Operator Owners Association of Cox's Bazar (TOAC), said half a crore domestic and foreign tourists visit Cox's Bazar every year. Many long-distance buses and 10-12 flights travel on a daily basis. Hotels, motels, cottages, restaurants and airlines have all been closed for the past two months, with an estimated loss of Tk500 crore.
Lion MN Karim, senior vice-president of Cox's Bazar Hotel-Motel Owners Association, said these Covid lockdowns are having a crippling effect on the tourism industry. Owners of starred hotels have been running their business with bank loans. Most hotel owners are failing to pay salaries, allowances of their employees and installations for bank loans. If the situation continues, they will go bankrupt.
The only way to keep the industry afloat is to provide incentives and soft loans to tourism businessmen, he added.
Abu Morshed Chowdhury Khoka, president of the Cox's Bazar Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said, "Tourism sector businessmen have to count a loss of Tk45 to 50 crore every day. If the situation continues for a few more days, the business will collapse further. In the meantime, they have to count losses of more than Tk2,500 crore."
It is possible to avoid some losses if the tourism-related businesses are opened in compliance with the health rules, he added.
Cox's Bazar Deputy Commissioner Md Mamunur Rashid said, "I have informed the department concerned in writing about the ongoing situation of the sector. However, we have yet to receive any incentives for the industry."
If there is any government allocation for people involved in the tourism industry, it will be distributed accordingly, he also said.