A week-long beach carnival was being hosted at Laboni Point, Cox's Bazar, marking World Tourism Day on the 27th of September. To boost tourism in Cox's Bazar, it was said to be an 'environment-friendly investment in Ttourism,' by the convener of the fair, Additional District Magistrate Md Yamin Hossain. But how convenient is it to visit these tourist destinations on such occasions?
This year, the national holiday of Eid-e-Miladunnabi fell on a Thursday, just before the weekend, resulting in a larger-than-usual number of visitors to various tourist spots in Bangladesh. It's a familiar sight at tourist destinations: whenever a national holiday coincides with the weekend, these places become crowded.
The General Secretary of the Kolatoli Hotel Owners Association of Cox's Bazar, Mr Mukim Khan, said to the journalists, "Tourists had started to arrive due to government holidays and National Tourism Day, and most of our hotels, motels, and guesthouses were 100 per cent booked, which gave them hope that they could recover all the losses they faced during the off-season."
Visiting Cox's Bazar and some other famous tourist spots during major government holidays can be quite a challenging experience. The place is overflowing with tourists, and accommodations in hotels, motels, and guesthouses are fully booked. Without prior reservations, finding a place to stay can be incredibly troublesome. Some people spend the night in their cars or micros, while others seek shelter in mosques. During these peak times, the prices for everything, including accommodation, food, and transportation, skyrocket to 2-3 times their usual rates.
Shuvro Saikat, a Gazipur resident and a National University student, went to Cox's Bazar with four of his friends during the Miladunnabi holiday last week. What he and his friends faced was nothing short of a highly discouraging sign for the tourism industry.
"We saw promotional posts on Facebook and apps regarding discounts in hotels/motels, and on reaching the spot, among hundreds of thousands of tourists, all those promises were gone. The owners were not ready to offer any discount; rather, in many hotels, the normal prices were inflated."
Extra costs for basic needs, from residence to food and transportation, led Shuvro and his friends' vacation cut short to 2 days, which was initially planned for 3 days.
"Such holidays are never good for touring unless you have abundance. Well, this is also dishonesty from the tourism industry. I feel they deprive people of their joy by hiking prices on every occasion and eating up people's hard-earned money with subpar services. Only strict measures by the government authorities could solve this anomaly," Shuvro regretfully added.
In contrast, visiting the same locations during the off-season offers a more economical choice. Prices for hotels, food, and transportation are significantly lower. However, there are a few drawbacks to consider. The off-season might bring about adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rainfall or excessive heat, potentially dampening your overall tourist experience. Nevertheless, this period provides a much more affordable option for students and budget-conscious travellers.
Fahim Muntasir, a civil engineering student at RUET, shared his experience, saying, "I, along with a few of my friends, decided to visit Cox's bazar earlier this September, a time when very few people visit this place. This decision had several advantages for us. Firstly, we were able to get hotel rooms at a fraction of the cost compared to the peak season. The prices for food were also reasonable, and we even had room to bargain when purchasing local fish and crabs since traders had a sufficient supply of items and there was no crowding as during the peak season."
However, Fahim also recounted an unfortunate incident during their trip to Himchari. They encountered heavy rainfall, which made their trip much more difficult. Yet, he thinks going there during the peak of tourist season would not have been a wise choice for him as a student.
Now, it's not always easy for a jobholder to visit tourist spots without a national holiday. They have to apply for leave, which can be difficult. Otherwise, their casual leave gets deducted.
Md. Ashikuzzaman, Assistant Engineer, Bakhrabad Gas Distribution Company Limited, shared his perspective with this writer. He said, "The main purpose of vacation is to relax and enjoy quality time with friends and family. However, whenever I've visited any tourist spots during national holidays, I've often felt that, instead of dealing with the challenges of inflated costs for food, accommodation, and transportation, I should have stayed home. But it's not always simple to arrange for leave from the office to plan a trip."
Several factors influence the fluctuations in prices in tourist destinations. During national holidays lasting more than 3-4 days, these places are almost guaranteed to be crowded. However, businesses in the tourism sector, whether large or small, are usually well-prepared for the rush of visitors. For instance, if you wish to rent a boat during major holidays, even with a substantial crowd, there will be a sufficient supply of boats available for rent, which keeps prices in check.
On the other hand, national holidays like the latest one, Eid-e-Miladunnabi, dependent on the moon's sighting, introduce an element of uncertainty regarding whether they will coincide with a weekend, potentially attracting a large number of visitors. This unpredictability can lead to insufficient goods and services, ultimately resulting in price hikes.
One of the key things about nation branding is that it helps promote a country's tourism. Abu Morshed Chowdhury, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Cox's Bazar, believes that the fair held in COx's Bazar can positively brand local tourism. However, price hikes and dishonesty from the hotel owners spoil the industry's image.
Nevertheless, visiting any tourist spots during peak season or government holidays can be challenging. Proper management and monitoring can lessen most of the major issues tourists face frequently and offer them a much smoother touring experience.