Tourists, especially the domestic ones, can now visit the Kuakata beach without hesitation. It has been declared open to visitors from July 1 by the relevant government authorities. The resort remained closed for three and a half months beginning from mid-March after the COVID-19 pandemic started breaking out in the country. Like all major domestic tourist spots, it was made off-limits to all sight-seers. Now that the country's second largest seaside-resort, after Cox's Bazar, has reopened, people long self-isolated at home in their respective areas are expected to come out in the open on the sandy beach.
With the novel coronavirus still prevalent in most part of the country, many people might bring into question the timing of the beach's opening to tourists. There is, however, a heartening part of the decision to reopen the sea-resort. Before getting down to brass tacks, all the stakeholders have reportedly ensured that tourists' safety was a prime issue, and that health guidelines would be followed stringently. Such an impression has been formed through the training and briefing sessions for the tour operators' staff held on June 5, 6 and 9. Those were organised by the Bangladesh Tourism Board and the owners of around 120 hotels and motels functioning under the banner of Kuakata Hotel-Motel Owners Association. As had been expected, the leitmotif of the orientation meetings turned out to be the stress on safety measures. The prospective Kuakata-bound tourists will surely take heart from the beach authorities' special emphasis on physical distancing and hygiene-related measures. Those include compliance with all health rules like going through infra-red thermal scanning, wearing of masks and gloves and the uses of sanitisers and disinfectants. The local upazila administration has laid special stress on the compliance with the mandatory COVID-19 rules. The urgency behind the opening of the promising second sea-resort is evident. The commercial activities which witnessed a boom lately have apparently become stuck in the doldrums; with traders falling on hard times.
With the slow decline in and, finally, a halt to tourist turnout at the spot, the beach-based hotel-motel owners, eateries and the improvised boutique shops being thrown into a difficult web, Kuakata's predicament is understandable. Many may have started bracing for an uncertain future. In such a difficult period, the opening of the Kuakata beach is expected to give a new lease of life to the tourist spot's business community. With the burgeoning of domestic tourism in the recent times, keeping a major site closed for long poses many risks; one of them is the plunge in the domestic tourists' urge for visiting places.
The spectre of a hurdle, however, stands in the way of full opening of the beach. With vast areas of the country still struggling to come free of the clutches of the deadly corona pandemic, the local tourism authorities have decided to open the beach in phases. Moreover, tourists cannot be expected to arrive at the beach in droves at this moment. Many will watch the situation for some time, their focus being on the effective implementation of the corona-related safeguards. With the Cox's Bazar resort town now under a COVID-19 lockdown, including the beach, Kuakata presents an option.All said and done, sensitisation of the tourists, their responsible behaviour and close monitoring of health protocols emerge as critical elements for the success of the whole endeavour.