Two years ago, Azizur Rahman Saju, a resident of Dhaka, rented a two-storey house in Radhanagar area of Srimangal and opened a small resort called Himachol.
The resort has been completely closed for about four months due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Although there is no income from the business, house rent and electricity bills must be paid.
Azizur Rahman Saju said, "I have lost about Tk1 lakh per month. If this situation continues, I will have no choice but to close the resort."
Sumat Nuri Jewel, a big entrepreneur in the hotel sector, runs a hotel named Fortune Garden in Sylhet. He said, "Who is getting the government-announced incentives? The bank is not giving new loans to those who have previous loans. How can I repay the loan? There is no business."
Not only these two, but all the entrepreneurs in the hotel and resort businesses of Sylhet are in an unprecedented crisis.
If this situation continues, many entrepreneurs will shut down their businesses.
- Hotel and resort entrepreneurs have sent 90 percent of their workers on unpaid leave.
- Hotel and resort owners said the sector is incurring a loss of around Tk3 crore every day in Sylhet.
- The loss per month is about Tk100 crore.
- The Sylhet Hotel, Motel and Guest House Owners Association said it has 34 members.
- There are more than two hundred hotels and resorts in Sylhet and over 500 in Sylhet division.
- Months of closures have forced businesses to miss out on holiday revenue.
- As of Saturday, 5,754 people have tested Covid-19 positive in Sylhet division.
The tourism sector was the most promising and safest sector for investment in Sylhet – an expatriate-dominated region.
Hundreds of resorts have been established in the last five years in Srimangal town alone.
In Sylhet, the number of tourists has increased at a promising rate in the last decade. No room at hotels and resorts could be found vacant during the holidays.
However, hotel and resort entrepreneurs are facing a devastating situation due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Entrepreneurs have already sent 90 percent of their workers on unpaid leave.
Abu Taher Shoaib, president of the Sylhet Chamber of Commerce and Industries (SCCI) who also owns a hotel business in the city, said trade, tourism and import-export are the main businesses here. Of these, tourism was considered the most promising.
"However, traders in this sector are now being hit hard due to Covid-19. There is no hope that their business will restart soon," he said.
Hotel and resort owners said the sector, in Sylhet alone, is incurring a loss of around Tk3 crore every day. The loss per month is about Tk100 crore.
The Nazimgarh Group has two large resorts at Khadimnagar and Lalakhal in Sylhet. About 350 workers worked there and almost all of them have been given unpaid leave.
Nazim Kamran Chowdhury, managing director of the two resorts, said business was completely closed. As a result, the workers had to be sent on leave.
Nazim Kamran added, "There was talk of waiving the fines for electricity bills. So, we have not paid bills in the last three months. However, now the power department said this is only for household customers. So, fines have to be paid. Fake bills are also coming."
Sajal Das, director of SKD Amar Bari Resort in Srimangal, Moulvibazar, echoed this. He said, "I have a bank loan of Tk2 crore. As the resort has been closed from March 11, we are stuck in a debt trap. I am afraid of losing capital."
He sought help from the government to overcome this situation.
The Sylhet Hotel, Motel and Guest House Owners Association said there are 34 members of this organisation. However, there are more than two hundred hotels and resorts in Sylhet. In Sylhet division, the number is over 500.
These hotels and resorts are normally full of guests on any festival or public holiday including Eid and Puja. The hotels were completely empty last Eid-ul-Fitr. This upcoming Eid-ul-Azha they will likely remain empty.
The association has announced that all hotels and resorts in Sylhet will remain closed until the Covid-19 pandemic improves.
The situation has been deteriorating daily and as of Saturday, 5,754 people have tested Covid-19 positive in Sylhet division.
SK Das Sumon, director of Greenleaf Resort in Srimangal town, said all the rooms at this resort were booked a month before Eid last year. But this time the resort was completely empty on Eid.
Hasan Morshed who worked as a consultant for the development of the tourism sector in Sylhet said the crisis in the tourism sector will not go away even if Covid-19 situation returns to normal. This is because, people's income will decrease which will force them to reduce their costs. Tourists will not come as before.
Entrepreneurs in the sector will have to start from zero. Many small business entrepreneurs may not be able to survive, he added.
Nasim Ahmed, Managing Director of Hotel Nurjahan in Sylhet, said the sector could not be revived with loans in the name of incentives. Instead, a one-time subsidy is required.
It will be difficult for the hotel sector to make a comeback without the special cooperation of the government, he added.