Resuscitate Tourism after the COVID-19 Pandemic in Bangladesh

Tourism is the activities of people traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for leisure, business or other purposes. The world is full of breathtaking natural scenery as well as numerous tourist attractions and locations. These locations draw visitors from all over with tremendous curiosity and enjoyment. Every nation has its own distinct natural beauty, tourist attractions, locations, and cultural traditions that draw thousands of travel hungry people. Bangladesh is a small South Asian country full of natural beauty, ancient and rich history, culture, tradition, and many tourist destinations. Bangladesh is full of tourist destinations such as Cox’s Bazar, which has the world’s longest sea beach; Saint Martin, the Sundarban, which has the world’s largest mangrove forest and is home to the Royal Bengal tiger; hilly areas of Bangladesh such as Sylhet and Chittagong; tea gardens in Sylhet; forests in Chittagong, Dhaka, Paharpur, Bandarban, Rangamati, and others. Tourists from both home and abroad visit these places at a large number. 

Recently, when everyone was busy with their duties, something unexpected happened all over the world. It is called COVID-19. The WHO first learned about some unknown disease spreading rapidly in Wuhan, China, on December 31st, 2019 and later on, it rapidly spread all over the world and turned into a global pandemic, causing thousands of deaths everywhere. The world governments imposed a global lockdown and quarantine to control the spread of COVID-19 and decrease the number of deaths. They also made rules to follow the health guidelines and set restrictions to avoid social gatherings. People had to shut down their businesses, jobs, almost everything to avoid social gatherings and had to remain under quarantine. Quarantine caused a huge loss in the global economy. Almost every economic sector suffered a huge loss. Millions of people became jobless and the tourism sector has no exceptions. However, there are vast opportunities for tourism after this pandemic is over.

The impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on tourism in Bangladesh

Bangladesh experienced total lockdown from 26 March to 30 May 2020 because COVID-19’s uncontrollable spread and daily death toll rise. Bangladesh’s government also followed the health guidelines imposed by WHO and set rules and restrictions on all kinds of social gatherings. This also included the tourism sector being completely shut down.

After May 30, the lockdown was loosened a little bit but the second wave of COVID-19 hit almost immediately and Bangladesh went under the 2nd phase of lockdown from July 1st but had to end this lockdown on July 14th because of Eid and again started the second part of this lockdown from July 23rd to August 5th.  To follow the health protocols, all the tourist destinations were also shut down for uncertain period of time. Many employees from almost every sector were laid off or cut off from their jobs, including the tourism sector, because of COVID-19. According to the BBS, 2020, which was based on information from the fiscal year of 2018–19, the tourism sector represented 8.07 percent of all jobs in Bangladesh. According to a UNCTAD report published on June 30, 2021, in the years 2020 and 2021, the tourism sector loss in global GDP is around 4 trillion. The tourism sector of Bangladesh also suffered a tremendous loss of 200 billion taka, which is around 2.33 billion U.S. dollars, because of the pandemic since last year. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) estimates tourism’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) at 3.02 percent. In local currency, this amounts to Tk. 76,690.7 crore. 

Reopening of Tourism Sector in Bangladesh

After being closed for months last year because of COVID-19, the government of Bangladesh decided on August 12th to reopen tourism destinations at half their capacities from the 19th August, but everyone has to follow the health guidelines. The Bangladesh government made this decision in response to the demand made by the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) to reopen the tourism sector. With this reopening of tourism destinations, the government imposed health guidelines and health safety protocols such as having to wear masks whenever you go outdoors. This reopening is full of existing and new post-pandemic possibilities which were not possible to attain a few months ago because of COVID-19 and lockdowns.

Post Pandemic Possibilities in the Tourism Sector of Bangladesh

Tourism is one of the sectors that got hit hard by COVID-19 and lost billions. People related to tourism also suffered way too much because of this. Bangladesh lost billions of dollars, and people who were directly or indirectly related suffered terrible consequences. Even after all these bad things happened in this sector, there are many post-pandemic possibilities in this sector which can bring the tourism sector to where it used to be and in an even better position than this. These possibilities will be beneficial for tour operators, tourists, and the government. A few of these possibilities are as follows:

People can get free from this long captive life: 

After staying under lockdown because of COVID-19, people are getting bored of this long, monotonous life. They want to go outside of their house and see nature, enjoy its beauty, meet and greet friends and close ones. They wish to travel far from their homes to the wide-open spaces of the hills, mountains, and plains. They desire to view the ocean. And after being under lockdown for so long, they have a renewed desire to see the world like they once did. So the number of tourists from both home and abroad may increase significantly after this pandemic ends, and with the increased number of tourists, the GDP of a country will automatically increase. And tourism will get back to its past glory or even surpass it and set a new position for it.

Capitalizing on New and Healed Nature: 

Mother Nature has surprised us in many ways during this lockdown. Lockdown made people stay inside their houses for a long time, and while people were inside their houses, nature got the chance to heal itself after a long time. Nature, the environment, and animals got some free time from humans and their activities. And now nature is refreshed with a new look and beauty. This is one of the best post-pandemic possibilities that nature tourism will increase at a new level. People are dying to get close to nature and enjoy time with it. Nature tourism is already a significant part of the tourism industry; with this revitalized nature, eager tourists will be ready to embark on their journey into the wilderness. 

Improved Ecotourism: People now want to be with nature and also conserve it. They want to take care of their own health and the health of nature. So the post-pandemic possibility of ecotourism is very positive.

Diversified Job Opportunities: This pandemic caused millions of individuals to lose their employment. Millions of people lost their jobs in the tourism industry as well, so there are a lot of job opportunities when the pandemic is over. People with high level and low level skills can both hold positions here.

Creative Use of Technology: Use of new technologies is one of the possibilities after this pandemic. As people have to maintain social distance and follow health guidelines, the use of hands-free technology in tourism has a bright future, and other technologies that can improve the tour experience can have good possibilities as well.

Opportunities for Online Travel Agencies (OTA): During the quarantine period, people started using online services very much, and even after quarantine, they are pretty much used to it. Everyone is thinking about going out to explore the world and enjoy its beauty. OTA businesses have great opportunities as people would love to book or arrange tours online. This method is far more affordable than the conventional methods used by travel companies, in addition to being simple and time-saving. Additionally, it provides consumers with a wide range of alternatives. Therefore, there is a very good possibility that OTAs will succeed.

New ideas along with Existing Business Ideas: After the pandemic is over, there is a strong likelihood that both new and current tourism-related enterprises will see growth. People are already preparing to travel and explore, and when the pandemic finally ends, these companies will make a nice profit and see a surge in business.

Tourism is a dynamic and competitive industry that requires the ability to adapt constantly to customers’ changing needs and desires, as the customer’s satisfaction, safety, and enjoyment are particularly the focus of tourism businesses. So, this pandemic situation shows us an opportunity to rethink our tourism industry with new mindsets and attitudes, which will lead to an improved standard of the industry. With the proper planning and actions, the tourism industry has huge opportunities to contribute to the post-pandemic economic growth of Bangladesh.

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