Travel restrictions

Tour operators expect a good season after government lifts travel restrictions

Inbound tour operators in Bangladesh are expecting a good season this winter as overseas leisure tourists have booked trips after two years of travel restrictions prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most of these travelers come from Japan, Italy, England, Germany, France, Australia and some other Asian countries, according to tour operators.

Bangladesh lifted all types of travel restrictions for foreign tourists – imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic – on September 26 this year, paving the way for tour operators to book foreign tourists for overnight trips. winter.

However, tour operators said that if the declaration to lift all types of travel restrictions had come a few months ago, they would have received more responses from foreigners.

Although travel costs, including airfare, have risen, operators said they did not raise the cost of the package this year to attract customers after a two-year break.

Bengal Tours, one of the leading incoming travel agencies in Bangladesh, has already received booking confirmations from over 600 travellers, who will visit from October 2022 to March 2023.

“About 65% of the tourists are Japanese, while the rest are from European countries who have enjoyed different group packages. The cost per day for a tourist under a group package is $75-85, excluding plane ticket,” Masud Hossain, managing director of Bengal Tours, told The Business Standard.

“We have reduced our profit margin this year so that customers feel free to come to Bangladesh after a long gap,” he said, adding that Bengal Tours would increase the cost from the 2023-24 season.

Normally, travelers take packages of 7 to 15 days.

“Seven British tourists will come in November this year through our agency. In addition, a group of nine Italian citizens will visit in March next year,” said Syed Mahbubul Islam Bulu, owner of Riverain Tour, at The Business Standard.

“Due to the late announcement of lifting restrictions for leisure tourists, many have moved to neighboring countries,” added Bulu, who is also the chairman of the Bangladesh Tour Guides Association.

Despite its vast potential, Bangladesh has yet to become a popular destination for foreign tourists compared to its neighboring countries due to poor tourism and airport infrastructure, complex visa policies, social restrictions and lack of comfortable means of transport, according to experts.

The Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) does not have data on incoming tourists by country after 2019.

Bangladesh had three lakh inbound tourists in 2019, the highest since the country gained independence, according to the BTB.

Previous figures were 2.48 lakh in 2018, 2.2 lakh in 2017, 1.69 lakh in 2016 and 1.18 lakh in 2015.

In 2019, the number of Indian tourists was 2,70,024, or 89% of the total number of inbound tourists, according to the tourism board.

Taufiq Rahman, incoming tour operator and general secretary of the Bangladesh chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata), told TBS: “Only 30,000 to 40,000 foreigners visited Bangladesh for travel purposes in the pre- Covid”.

“Currently, eight Indians are in Bangladesh through my company. Besides, I have a group of 29 people coming from November 27 to December 3. Among them, 27 are British and two Australians,” Toufiq added, who is also CEO of Voyage Plus.

“Tourists from different countries, including Argentina and Finland, have also contacted us and some have already confirmed,” he added.

Foreign travelers mainly visit three world heritage sites: the Sundarbans, the Shaṭ Gombuj Mosque, the Buddhist Vihar in Paharpur, Srimangal and also the capital Dhaka, according to tour operators.

Some tourists also visit the Chattogram Hill Tracts, archaeological sites like Bogura Mahasthangarh and the Lalon Shah Shrine at Kushtia.

Among the sights in Dhaka, tourists mainly intend to visit Sadarghat, Old Dhaka Traveling Merchant Ship, Shakhari Bazaar, Lalbag Fort, Star Mosque, Parliament Building, Shaheed Minar and War Museum of release.

In 2020 and 2021, few tourists visited the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Those who came to the country were foreigners working in Bangladesh on tourist visas, non-resident Bangladeshis and business travelers.

Revenue from inbound visitors (not leisure tourists) stood at just over TK 2,279 crore last year, up from Tk 1,196 crore in 2020, according to Bangladesh Bank data collected by the Bangladesh Tourism Board.