Pandemic brings Gazipur tourism sector to its knees
Business Desk :
Chhuti, a resort on 50 bighas of land surrounded by lakes and greeneries at Sukundibagh of Gazipur, used to draw at least 50,000 visitors every month.
In last March-April, the bookings were worth Tk4 crore. But the outbreak of Covid-19 turned the tide as the visitors stopped coming there.
Advocate Jalal Uddin, owner of the resort's land, said, "We worked very hard to establish this resort business. But due to coronavirus pandemic, this business is now at risk. Currently, it has become very difficult for us to bear the maintenance costs like paying the electric bill and the salaries of the employees.
"The government is giving incentives to different sectors. So, if the government gives incentives to the resort business, the sector will be able to turn around. Otherwise, this sector will not survive."
Ahsan Kader, manager of the resort, said they failed to do the business in Pahela Boishakh and two Eid festivals. They would usually earn Tk5-Tk6 crore during the festivals in previous years, but this year it has been zero so far.
"There are more than 100 employees in the resort. Many of them may lose their jobs," he said.
Kabir has been working in this resort for seven years. He said, heaving a sigh, that he was managing well his four-member family with his income. But now he is going through a very tough time as he has not been getting salaries regularly for six months as the resort has been closed.
Adjacent to the capital city, Gazipur is a favourite destination for those who want to spend some time in the midst of nature.
There are more than 200 public and private resorts, and picnic and shooting spots in the district. The district administration issued a public circular after the outbreak of the pandemic, prohibiting gatherings of tourists and visitors at the resorts.
Since March, these resorts and picnic spots have remained closed, leaving more than 25,000 people working in the sector in Gazipur in severe hardship.
Sarah Resort in Rajabari area had bookings worth Tk1.5 crore for March-April. After the outbreak of coronavirus, visitors started to cancel the bookings one after another.
Though the resort has remained closed, around Tk1 crore is being spent per month for the maintenance of the resort, which has several swimming pools, gymnasium, play grounds, kids' corner and boating facility.
Visitors and tourists began to cancel bookings not only at Chhuti or Sarah resorts but also at other resorts from March.
Khabir Uddin Ahmed, president of Tourism Resort Association of Bangladesh, said, "Many developed countries depend on their tourism sector. These countries are giving incentives to this sector to overcome losses due to coronavirus.
"Around 40,000 people work in tourism sector across Bangladesh. Most of the employees are unemployed now. The owners of the resorts and picnic and shooting spots are now surviving somehow by giving subsides to the businesses.
"The sector has faced a loss of Tk5,000 crore during the pandemic. Though the government has given incentives to different sectors, only the tourism sector has not got any. The government has to take initiative to help the tourism industry."
SM Tarikul Islam, deputy commissioner of Gazipur, said, "There are 76 enlisted resorts and entertainment spots in the district. We closed these towards the beginning of the pandemic. As offices, factories and courts have opened now, we will give permission to the resort owners, who will submit written applications for reopening their resorts, following the health guidelines.
"However, the matter of giving incentives totally depends on the government. If the resort owners tell us about it, we will inform the higher authorities."
Not only private resorts but also public establishments in Gazipur have suffered losses.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park, Bhawal National Park and many other public tourist spots used to remain crowded before the pandemic arrived. Now silence has fallen upon the places.
Tabibur Rahman, supervisor of Bangabandhu Safari Park, said, "The park was closed on March 20. The number of visitors was 5.5 lakh from March to July last year and the revenue earning during the period was Tk2.5 crore. On the other hand, from March to July this year, no revenue was collected. Besides, the activities surrounding the park have also stopped. The lessees have been affected. However, the duration of the leases will be extended to compensate the lessees."
However, because of the pandemic, the park has become enriched with more natural beauty and more animals and birds came here, said the supervisor.