Blockade keeps tourists off Ctg's holiday destinations
The number of visitors heading for four of Chittagong's popular tourist destinations every day has drastically plummeted by around 95 percent, proportionally slashing the industry's peak season earnings, while sales at the port city's restaurants and eateries are witnessing a slump as high as 80 percent all due to the ongoing blockade.
December to February is the height of the holiday season for the beautiful coastlines at Patenga, Kattali and Parki and Foy's Lake.
However, those who are the vital source of jobs and hard currency for the local economy are staying away in large numbers due to the BNP-led 20-party alliance's programme, raising apprehensions among those in the tourism and leisure industries on how to keep businesses afloat for the rest of the year.
The number of holidaymakers arriving at the Patenga beach has reduced to merely around 1,000 while the view of 30 to 50 parked buses signifying the presence of picnickers seems to be a distant memory as per an association of the nearly 330 restaurants and souvenir shops there.
Mohammed Bappi and Mohammed Ali who own such tourism businesses say their daily sales are barely reaching Tk 500 to 1,000.
Hit even harder are the local holiday trade relying heavily on tourism such as outlets offering photographers, rides on horseback and renting out quad bikes and speed boats.
The grim scenario also prevails at the grassy Kattali beach with the number of holidaymakers arriving to view its mangrove forest, intertwining canals and flocks of birds down to around 100.
SM Shamshul Alam, Ali Akber and Shahidul Alam Mamun, authorities of three private parks, say the phones were barely ringing for reservations for picnics at a time when they would have usually been arranging three to four daily.
Times have become desperate for Mamunur Rashid who goes around selling food. He can do nothing but hope for the tides to turn as his daily sales have reduced to Tk 100, a tenth of his expectations.
Though arrivals at the seven-kilometre long Parki beach still doubles at weekends, the figure on a single weekday now stands at around 200, nowhere near that of yesteryears, says MA Kyum Shah who owns a resort there.
Only two or three buses carrying picnickers arrive, that too only on the weekends, a far cry from the usual 50 or so used to be seen every day, he said.
Restaurateur Mohammed Selim says he is in a fix for daily revenues plummeted to Tk 500 from as high as Tk 7,000. The same goes for the around 100 business establishments like his which fear of going bust if the situation prevails.
The picturesque Foy's Lake, now housing a theme park of Concord amidst undulating hills, is also passing the worst possible of times with barely 100 visitors setting foot every day.
Assistant Marketing Manager Bishwajit Ghosh said the number usually hovered around 1,500 and rose by another 1,000 on the weekends.
“We used to daily host at least 20 picnics for educational institutions and clubs and five corporate picnics. The number has become almost zero now,” he said.
The blockade has effectively infused security concerns and put off the city's residents on the lookout to satisfy their taste buds and experience new dishes at the around 600 restaurants.
As per staff, the daily sale at Kashundi Restaurant in Probortak has come down to around Tk 5,000 to Tk 6,000 while Bonanza Restaurant in GEC area saw it slashed to half.
The latter's manager, Mohammad Nasir, says no longer do foreigners step foot inside though some 20 to 25 used to do so in the evenings.
The revenue drop is around one-third for Café Chhufia Hotel and Restaurant at Bayezid Bostami Road.
Though not revealing the figures, one owner of Hotel Zaman, Restaurant and Biriani House in Chawkbazar went as far as to saying they were just “staying alive”.