Losses piling up for Kuakata hoteliers
At least 20 of the 30 staffers employed by Khan Palace, a residential hotel in Kuakata beach town of Patuakhali district, have been put on administrative leave due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The hotel authorities retained some security and maintenance personnel but most waiters and even managers were sent home after the government ordered all tourist spots to shut down on April 1 in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The initial lockdown was supposed to last two weeks but as the number of infections continued to climb at an alarming rate, strict measures were introduced on April 14 and later extended until April 28.
As a result, Khan Palace has been deprived of about Tk 1 lakh in revenue while having to pay Tk 3 lakh to its workers, according to Russell Khan, director of the hotel.
The case is similar for all other hotels in the seaside town.
Zahirul Islam Miron, manager of Somudrabari, said he had to pay Tk 40,000 to his workers even though four were on leave.
Likewise, Imtiaz Tushar, the owner of Elish Park, said the payroll has to be calculated despite declining revenue.
"All but two of my 20 staff are on leave but still everyone gets their salaries," said Abdul Motaleb Sharif, owner of the Kuakata Guest House and general secretary of the Kuakata Hotel-Motel Owners Association.
Similarly, hundreds of people employed by the local hotel industry are sitting idle for now but the owners still count their salaries.
"But it is uncertain how long we can survive if the situation prolongs," he added.
The region's tourism industry has suffered as a whole due to the ongoing pandemic.
There are thousands of restaurant workers, around 150 commercial photographers, numerous small shop owners, tom-tom drivers, and many more in the area who depend on tourism for their livelihoods.
Nizam Sheikh, president of the Ashar Alo Cooperative Association (an organisation of fishermen), said that over 2,400 local fishermen are now unemployed.
According to estimates, a total of 5,500 people in Kuakata have lost their jobs due to Covid-19.
When contacted, Patuakali Deputy Commissioner Matiul Islam Chowdhury said a Tk 20 lakh allocation has been received from the Prime Minister's Fund for low-income people as humanitarian assistance to deal with the Covid-19 fallout.
The allocation has already been disbursed to each upazila and the Nirbahi Officer of each upazila will take the necessary steps in this regard, he added.