Losses for inbound and outbound tour operators in Bangladesh persist as tourists are not booking trips amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Industry insiders say that many tourists to and from Bangladesh have cancelled their bookings till June of this year. They fear the situation may continue.
Outbound tour operators' estimated turnover from February to June is around Tk2,500 crore while inbound operators estimated turnover is Tk100 crore, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association's (Pata) Bangladesh Chapter.
Around 16,000 employees may lose their jobs in the tour operating companies in the meantime owing to the novel coronavirus catastrophe, according to Pata.
It is estimated that around 30-35 lakh Bangladeshis visit foreign countries for different purposes, including the Umrah pilgrimage, every year.
Of them, around 10 lakh go abroad through different tour operators.
"More than 20 lakh Bangladeshis visit India every year for purposes of tourism, medical treatment, business and education. Only 15-20 percent of them go there through tour operators", said Masud Hossain, managing director of Bengal Tours.
The number of tour operators who organise trips for people going from Bangladesh to other countries is between 1,700 and 1,800.
Md Roni, convener of the Outbound Tour Operators Forum, said, "Around 20,000 employees are working in the outbound tour operating companies. Many of them may lose their jobs as tour cancellations will continue till December this year".
"Around 1,000 Bangladeshi tourists were scheduled to travel to South-East Asian and Saarc countries from February to June this year through my company. But with all the trips having been cancelled, we missed a turnover of Tk35-40 lakh", added Roni, who is also the managing partner of Trip Maker, an outbound tour operating company.
Journey Plus is another tour operating company that provides services to both inbound and outbound tourists.
Toufiq Rahman, chief executive of Journey Plus, said, "A 12-member group was scheduled to go to Sri Lanka on March 26, an eight member group to Bhutan on April 2, and two other groups to Thailand and Singapore between March and April. But all the bookings for the trips at my company have been cancelled."
"I have an inbound tour business also. Some foreign tourist groups have cancelled their trips to Bangladesh. I will lose a turnover of Tk2-2.50 crore between now and June 2020," he added.
Around 30 companies organise inbound tourism packages in Bangladesh.
Silver Wave Tours is one of them.
Tanvir Ahmed, the director of the company, said, "Around 250 foreign tourists were scheduled to come to Bangladesh by June this year through my company. Tourists from India, Japan, the UK, Australia and China have already cancelled their trips."
"More than Tk3 crore would have been my total turnover by this time, which I have now lost", he added.
According to the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), the number of foreign visitors and tourists has increased by around 130 percent over the last five years.
In 2015, 1.4 lakh foreign tourists visited Bangladesh. In the following years, their numbers kept rising, with two lakh coming to the country in 2016, about 2.6 lakh in 2017, around 2.7 lakh in 2018, and around 3.2 lakh in 2019, according to BTB data.
"The number of foreign tourists is not more than 30,000 in a year while the rest come for business and jobs on tourist visas," said Masud Hossain, a tour operator.
Tour guides become jobless amid novel coronavirus pandemic
Meanwhile, over a month has elapsed since freelance tourist guides in the country last had any work to do.
"I earned Tk2,000 per day. I was scheduled to work with a UK tourist group from March 20 and with an Italian tourist group from the first week of April, but all trips have been cancelled," lamented Yusuf Ali, a freelance tour guide.
According to the Tourist Guide Association of Bangladesh (TGAB), around 1,000 guides work in the tourism sector. Approximately half of them have graduate degrees and are skilled in spoken English.
Many of them work on a daily basis as freelancers, while some work as permanent staff for local tour operators. They mainly deal with foreign tourists and visitors.
"October-April is the peak season for inbound tourists in Bangladesh. Since the coronavirus outbreak, tourism has come to a stop all over the world, causing sufferings for tour guides the most," said Syed Mahbubul Alam Bulu, president of the Tourist Guide Association of Bangladesh.
The Tour Operators' Association of Bangladesh fears that up to 30 percent of employees in the sector could end up losing their jobs in the aftermath of Covid-19.