The Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) has sought an allocation of Tk20,000 crore exclusively for the tourism sector, excluding aviation, in the budget for the fiscal 2021-22.
At the same time, the organisation also demanded to open all the tourist centres across the country on condition of abiding by the health guidelines.
"Usually 80% of the budget allocation for aviation and tourism is spent on aviation. So, we are demanding this Tk20,000 crore allocation separately for the tourism sector," said TOAB President Md Rafeuzzaman at a press conference at the National Press Club on Thursday.
Representatives of tour operators from different parts of the country were present at the press conference organised by TOAB.
"We want this allocation for the development of all tourism centres. For example, Kuakata needs a marine drive, a resort, a jetty, and an exchange room. If there is a separate allocation for this sector, it can be spent for the infrastructural development of the country's tourism spots," said Rafeuzzaman.
The TOAB president said, "In the proposed budget, Tk4,032 crore has been allocated for the tourism sector which is Tk344 crore more than the allocation of the previous (2020-2021) financial year. I think this allocation is very little for the development of the tourism industry in Bangladesh.
According to TOAB, the ongoing pandemic has caused a loss of around Tk20,000 crore in the tourism sector in 2020. About 4o lakh people involved in this industry are living inhumane lives. Being frustrated, many are shifting to another business.
In response to a question, Md Rafeuzzaman said that a total of 787 tour operating organisations are members of TOAB. Last year, TOAB members incurred Tk5,000 crore losses due to the pandemic. We demand incentives for tour operators. Otherwise, several lakh people involved in this industry will become unemployed and the existence of the tourism industry will be at stake.
In this context, he continued, we are demanding to open all the tourist centres of the country from today on the condition of abiding by the health guidelines.
Md Rafeuzzaman said, "Since the government has opened transport, shopping complexes and everything else on the condition of compliance with the health rules; we think it is reasonable to open the tourist spots also on the condition of compliance with the health rules and SOP (Standard Operational Procedure)."
In a written statement at the press conference, Mohammad Shahed Ullah, director (media and publications) of TOAB, said. "Due to the restrictions imposed by the government to stem the spread of coronavirus, about 1,000 tourist spots in the country are closed for a long time. If the lockdown is extended till next December, the sector might face losses worth Tk9,000 crore."
The press conference also demanded a waiver of trade license renewal fee for tour operators, vaccination for TOAB members and their family members on a priority basis and a separate ministry for tourism.
Among others, the press conference was also addressed by Nadira Kiran, president of Aviation and Tourism Journalists Forum, Ruman Imtiaj Tushar, president of Tour Operators Association of Kuakata, Mainul Islam Joadder, president of Tour Operators Association of Sundarbans, and Tofail Ahmed, president of Tour Operators Association of Cox's Bazar.