07/05/2017, 19.34
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After Dhaka massacre, tourism drops by 80 per cent

Hospitality industry drops by 90 per cent. Bookings are cancelled for fear of other terrorist attacks. Bangladesh is on the list of high-risk countries. For tour operators, the government should work to recover foreigners’ trust.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The Dhaka massacre on 1 July 2016 has reduced Bangladesh’s tourist sector by at least 80 per cent.

In the capital, the crisis has hit hard restaurants, hotels and bars, with losses of up to 90 per cent, this according to figures published by the Dhaka Tribune, one of Bangladesh’s main English-language newspapers.

The paper found that the fall in arrivals from foreign countries - especially Japan and Italy - and the continuing fear of tourists and local customers of new terrorist attacks have devastated the tourist sector. For some tour operators, the government should work to rebuild foreigners’ trust.

For Mishal Karim, owner of Chows, an upscale Cantonese restaurant in Banani, “The attack on Holey was a tragedy that affected everyone, especially the restaurant business. Even though operations have somewhat returned to normal, everything is a little different. The fear is always there.”

Prior to the attack, many Japanese tourists came to the country in great numbers, 5,000 to 6,000, each year. “Over the past year, only 1,000 tourists came to Bangladesh,” said Masud Hossain, the executive director of Bengal Tours Limited.

“As the arrivals from Japan declined, 16 tour guides who would have handled the Japanese tourists, have quit. The overall slump in tourism has caused a total of 15 tour guides adept in other languages to also quit,” he added.

With respect to Italian tourists, only five came to Bangladesh this year, whereas the yearly arrival from Italy was around 600 in the recent past.

The 1st July massacre had a major impact but a first setback occurred earlier with the killing of two foreign residents, Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella and Japanese Hoshi Kunio.

After the terrorist attack, Japan and Italy out Bangladesh on their list of high-risk countries, with an advisory against travel.

“To get bookings from foreign tourists, Bangladesh will have to work relentlessly to have the red alert on Bangladesh removed,” said Bengal Tours’ Masud Hossain.

Gulshan and Banani, two of Dhaka’s most exclusive districts with embassies and diplomatic representations, have obviously been affected by the crisis.

The number of customers dropped by about 90 per cent just after the terror attack in Gulshan against the bar frequented by foreigners that left 20 dead, including nine Italians.

Although security measures around the area have been stepped up with 12 police check posts, the numbers are still low in comparison to what it used to be.

“Foreigners are still panicking. This is why they are not coming to the area. It will take more time for the situation to stabilise,” said Soi 71 restaurant manager Awolad.

“Even though some new customers have begun dropping by after we reopened, all the known faces have yet to show up,” said Sayeed, a sales executive at the Holey Artisan Bakery.

According to the Hotel, Guesthouse and Restaurant Owners’ Association of Bangladesh and the Tour Operators’ Association of Bangladesh, some 500 budget hotels, guest houses and restaurants are operating in Dhaka, some 350 residential hotels, guest houses and restaurants in Gulshan and Banani alone.

Investment in the local hospitality industry stands at around 50 billion takas (US$ 620 million) employing 100,000 people.

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