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Impact of Covid-19 on Tourism Industry in Bangladesh: Analysis of Current Situation and Suggested Strategies for the Future

The Hospitality and Tourism Sector (HTS) is one of the 15 major sectors that are used to estimate the GDP of the country. In terms of strict definition, the HTS incorporates accommodation services, traditional restaurants, exotic cuisine and fast-food stalls, tour operators and travel agents, transportation services (land, water and air), historical and archaeological sites and stores around them mainly catering to tourists, various wholesale and retail trading stores facilitating accommodation and food services, etc. These sectors and sub-sectors contribute around one quarter of GDP (GOB, 2020). 

Consequent upon the ‘new normal’ lifestyle accompanied by severe disruption of economic activities wreaked havoc on the economy of Bangladesh. However, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was uneven both across geography and type of economic activity. Consequently, the sector was one of worst hit sectors affected by COVID-19 pandemic. The country-wide lockdown imposed by the government led to closure of hotels, motels, restaurants, and transport sector activities as well as cancellation of all domestic and international flights to and from Bangladesh resulting in huge losses in this sector. Even though the lockdown has been gradually withdrawn since June, 2020; this sector is still susceptible to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in long-run considering the incessant spread out of this deadly virus.

As a matter of fact, the magnitude of the loss to the HTS has not been rigorously assessed and quantified to help the policy makers decide about the nature and extent incentives/stimuli that need to be provide to survive let alone revamp the sector. Consequently, informed policy making is hampered due to lack of credible estimates of loss in terms of turnovers, curtailment work hours or downright retrenchment of workers. In view of this, it has become imperative to conduct an in-depth analysis of the current status of the HTS and identify the probable impacts in terms of loss of revenues and consequent retrenchment of workers and/or reduced work hours/day of workers both during the COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic economy. Accordingly, the study would assess the micro, meso and macroeconomic impact, albeit differential, of the COVID-19 on the sector along with policy suggestions for recovery in post-pandemic environment. The specific objectives include but not limited:

1. To present the current status of the hospitality and tourism sector in Bangladesh in terms of assets, turnover, and employment.

2. To assess the loss and damage of the hospitality and tourism sub-sectors of Bangladesh due to COVID-19 pandemic comparing the current performance of the enterprises with ‘normal period of time.

3. To assess the number of persons employed in the hospitality and tourism sub-sectors lost their jobs or experience reduced working period, which in turn led to reduced welfare.

4. To assess the needs of the hospitality and tourism sector and find out sustainable ways to fulfil the needs to cope with and recover from the current crisis.

5. To suggest policy options to revamp the hospitality and tourism sector paralyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study will be carried out by reviewing existing literature and secondary information on the contribution of this sector to the economy in order to realize the contribution of this sector in employment generation as well as to comprehend the probable impacts of COVID-19 on this sector. After completion of the secondary research, four types of enterprise surveys involving the major four components viz., hotels, restaurants, tour operators, and travel agents will be carried out. Apart from the enterprise survey, survey will also be carried out with the employees of hotels, travel agents and tour operators in order to realize the impact of COVID-19 on livelihood of workforce of this sector. Apart from the quantitative surveys of both enterprises and employees, case studies involving transport owners and operators (both road and water ways) as well as owners and employees tourist attractions in five cities: Chattogram, Cox’s Bazar, Dhaka, Khulna, and Sylhet, renown for hospitality and tourism will be carried out.

Team: Mohammad Yunus (Team Leader), Mohammad Mainul Hoque and Tahreen Tahrima Chowdhury

Duration: February, 2021 to June, 2021

Sponsor: Bangladesh Tourism Board, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, Government of Bangladesh

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