COVID-19 restrictions have all but disappeared and holidays are likely to be longer than usual if a few extra days can be taken away from work – factors that have prompted large numbers of people to turn to tourist sites instead of returning to their home towns or villages this Eid.
According to the Bangladesh Outbound Tour Operators Association, or BOTOA, around 2 million people spend Eid in popular travel destinations both in the country and abroad.
Nearly 400,000 people travel to India alone, while Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Maldives will welcome more than 100,000 Bangladeshi tourists, BOTOA Chairman Iqbal Mahmood Bablu said.
Some also chose Vietnam as their travel destination this time around. Many travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.
However, Iqbal believes the number of vacationers would have been much higher if airfare prices had been within reach of most people.
“Air fares are very high this year. That’s why tour operators could not offer suitable packages. If ticket prices were lower, tour operators could offer many attractive offers.”
Iqbal said Sri Lanka was also a popular choice among holidaymakers in the past, but people lost interest in the island nation due to its continuing economic difficulties. The country is sinking into its worst economic crisis in decades. Additionally, violent street protests erupted this month as fuel shortages and power cuts became acute.
RUSH FOR INDIAN VISAS
After a travel ban of more than a year and a half due to the pandemic, India has started issuing new tourist visas. Crowds have been flocking to visa centers for a month to seize the opportunity to travel to the neighboring country again.
Many have been queuing for visas since early morning. Indian Visa Application Centers are operating after hours to cope with the pressure.
According to the website of the High Commission of India in Bangladesh, visa centers are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. throughout Ramadan. They receive visa applications until 5 p.m.
Tashrif Hossain, an employee of a private company, said he and seven other people went to the Indian visa center at Jamuna Future Park at 6 a.m. on April 17. But hundreds of people were already waiting there, even though the doors of the complex were not yet open.
However, it didn’t take very long after the visa center opened. Their application submission process was completed in two and a half hours.
Another traveler, Sharmeen Akhter, said she took Indian visas in order to vacation in Darjeeling-Gangtok. But they were not allowed to cross the Banglabandha-Phulbari border. Only air travel via Gede or Akhaura ports is permitted. This will add two more days to the trip, but they continue.
HOW THE COUNTRY IS PREPARING
Hoteliers and resort owners in the country’s tourist hotspots are also gearing up for the long vacation.
Moinuddin Selim, Secretary General of Rangamati Residential Hotel Owners Association, said, “The hospitality industry has gone through a difficult period due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many have kept their hotels closed. I hope there will be a turnaround this time. Everyone is preparing for it. »
He said there are 53 residential hotels under the auspices of the group in Rangamati, which can accommodate around 5,000 people.
Srijan Bikash Barua, director of Rangamati Tourism Corporation, said they are expecting a large number of tourists this time due to the long holidays.
There are 88 rooms in his motel which can accommodate more than 150 tourists. Of these, 44 have already been reserved. He expects the rest to be booked as well.
Cox’s Bazar is also poised for an influx of tourists during the holidays. Mohim Khan, general secretary of Cox’s Bazar Kolatoli Marine Drive Hotel, Motel and Resort Owners’ Association, said they expected dozens of tourists to flock during the Eid holiday.
Already, 60% of hotels and motels have been booked, he said.