Kuakata hotel business collapses as Covid curbs return
Hotel and motel owners in Kuakata, one of the most popular tourist spots in Bangladesh, are once again paying heavy prices as bookings are being cancelled owing to the latest spike in coronavirus cases.
The latest blow came in the middle of the peak tourist season after the government moved to tighten rules to limit the damages from the ongoing third wave of infections.
As the coronavirus situation is deteriorating, the government issued an 11-point directive on January 12 to protect the public from the fast-spreading coronavirus variant Omicron.
After the issuance of the directive, the number of tourists in the beach town of the southern Patuakhali district has decreased at an alarming rate, bringing immediate losses for the hotel and motel owners and others involved in the hospitality industry.
Md Shahin, manager of Banani Palace, a hotel, says it had a booking for 250 people for an annual picnic on Saturday. The booking was cancelled two days ago.
The hotel has 32 double rooms, but there were tourists in only two rooms on Friday. As the remaining 30 rooms were empty, the financial loss was Tk 45,000, he said.
"Now, it has become difficult for us to pay the salaries and allowances to the staff."
Abdur Rahim Khan, the owner of Khan Palace, says the hotel had lodging reservations on Saturday for 150 tourists from Dhaka. But they cancelled the booking on Wednesday.
Besides, 40 tourists from Jashore were supposed to come and stay on January 20 and 21, but the bookings were cancelled as well, he said.
Jashim Uddin, general secretary of a teachers' association in the district, said, "We booked hotel rooms for a team of 50 for an annual picnic at the end of this month. But due to the worsening coronavirus situation, we had to cancel the reservations."
There are 130 standard residential hotels in Kuakata. Of them, 70 are members of the Kuakata Hotel-Motel Owners Association. These hotels have a combined accommodation facility for 10,000 tourists, said Motaleb Sharif, general secretary of the association.
The number of tourists remains usually high on Fridays and Saturdays. But only 300 tourists were in Kuakata on Friday, leaving the hotels with a financial loss of Tk 75 lakh to Tk 80 lakh daily.
Sharif says the hospitality industry in the tourist destination has lost thousands of crores of taka in lost revenue since the pandemic hit the country nearly two years ago.
"We have to count more losses now as coronavirus cases are rising," he said.
He says the burden of financial losses has become so heavy that some hoteliers are planning to close their operations for good.
He sought incentives from the government for the tourism-related businesses in Kuakata so that they can ride out the new financial troubles.