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Political instability again spoils tourism business

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Staff Reporter
The ongoing countrywide blockade enforced by the BNP-led 20-party is taking its heavy toll on the hospitality industry in the beach town of Cox’s Bazar, the country’s most popular tourist destination.
Though the industry had enjoyed a relatively a better time in December last, hoteliers started feeling the pinch in January with the cancellation of corporate, group and individual bookings, according to insiders.
“December was a bit better…January has hit us hard,” assistant front office manager of Seagull Hotel ATM Nur-a-Alam Mithun told.
He said almost 50 percent corporate, group and individual bookings have so far been cancelled this month. “If situation doesn’t improve, it’ll have a negative on the entire chain,” he said.
Manager, Sales and Marketing of Hotel The Cox Today Shaheed Un Nabi also depicted a dismal business scenario due to the political instability.
“We had thought the business would pick up this time, but things went counter to our expectation…it started going down,” he said.
Shaheed also said some 50 percent corporate booking have been cancelled in recent days against similar three in December.
Both Mithun and Shaheed said the stormy political situation is discouraging tourists to take tours of Cox’s Bazar during their favorite time.
The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) has identified the tourism sector as one of the three worst affected areas due to political instability.
FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed said some 300 hotels in Cox’s Bazar remained almost idle in this peak session and further investment in the Cox’s Bazar faces uncertainty. “Many hotels have been built in Cox’s Bazar and those are now in great loss.”
Leaders of the Cox’s Bazar Hotel-Motel and Guest House Owners Association who had expected a good business this year are upset due to the current situation.
“Our hopes have been dashed. We don’t see any significant number of tourists in the city. The losses are mounting,” General Secretary of the Association Abul Kashem Sikdar told the news agency.
He said many people are directly and indirectly involved with the tourism industry in Cox’s Bazar are equally being affected and many are turning unemployed.
“All from vegetable producers to transport owners, tour operators and hotel owners are affected,” he said adding that they have been counting losses for the last three years.
He said the investors are deeply worried as there is no sign of improvement in the country’s political arena.
The hospitality industry earlier had expected a greater number of tourists this time due to the political stability that continued till December last year and the excellent weather condition.
The industry in Cox’s Bazar had also suffered huge losses in December 2013 following frequent shutdowns and blockades forcing hoteliers to send many of their employees on leave to minimize their losses.
Despite the peak season for tourists, the occupancy rate had come down to almost zero at that time following the political instability.
The travel and tourism sector raked in Tk 19,300 crore or 2.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2012, and was forecast to improve on the figure by 7.7 percent in 2013, according to a study by World Travel and Tourism Council.
In 2012, the sector also registered Tk 3,730 crore investments, which is 1.6 percent of the total investments for the year, the study said.