Inward tour operators slicing jobs

25 Sep 2020 11:19 AM
Image collected
Most of the inbound tour operators have been cutting jobs and shifting their offices aiming to slash operational costs, industry insiders say.

They said although overall hospitality, tourism and aviation sector is hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, such operators are bearing the brunt.

Inbound season starts from July and lasts until June. An estimated 30,000 leisure tourists visit Bangladesh every year, mostly from the united states, Europe, Australia, Japan, China and India.

The leisure tourists are enthusiastic about Bangladeshi heritage and archaeological sites, global heritage sites and religious spots. There are purely 10 to 15 inbound tour operators even though many run both inbound and outbound businesses for their sustenance.

Talking to the FE, Journey Plus chief executive Taufiq Rahman said he is shifting his office to his home to reduce costs. There have been nine staffers, which three will work in his restaurant.

"I had to pay Tk 50,000 as office rent excluding bills, staff earnings and other expenditure. But I've not earned a cent for the last month or two. I am selling two of my luxury tourist vehicles," he said.

He also said that regardless if the vaccine comes, Bangladeshi inbound operators will need to wait for another year, because long term tourists plan at least a coming year.

Foreign counterparts of local operators assured them of including Bangladesh in the visit list by 2022. Many have already been looking forward to a vaccine to reach, that will resolve the crisis, regardless if Bangladesh remains a hotspot for Covid-19 cases.

"My counterpart in the united kingdom, Wild Frontiers, has recently told me that they can include Bangladesh in its list by 2022," said Mr Rahman.

He used to take care of 1,000 to at least one 1,200 foreign leisure tourists a year. There was a cruise where 250 tourists visited Bangladesh in 2019 through Journey Plus.

In 2019, when the growing season had just started Mr Rahman received 750 foreign guests, but from February they cancelled trips to Bangladesh one at a time.

Masud Hossain, managing director of Bengal Tours, said that he now must pay almost Tk 0.1 million as office rent. He has 24 employees. He will shift his office to a smaller space so that he can halve the rent.

But he'll not show the door to some of his staffers whom he considers efficient.

"I will try to accommodate at least some staffers with the rent money I'll save. I've already closed my Khulna office," said Mr Hossain.

He remains optimistic about the turnaround running a business when an efficient vaccine is found.

"The business people who'll have to visit Bangladesh should come regardless of the corona," said Mr Hossain, also marketing and research director of the PATA Bangladesh chapter.

Bengal Tours has its luxury car and ship like many others.

When asked, senior secretary of civil aviation and tourism ministry Mohibul Haque said that the condition of the inbound operators is bad in comparison to others. If indeed they seek any help from banks under the stimulus package, they'll have to mortgage their assets.

He's hopeful about the revival of the tourism sector.

"We are promoting Bangladesh as a tourist destination through Bangladesh Tourism Board and our overseas missions. We are hopeful of obtaining tourists when commercial flights resume completely swing," he said.