Ease, isolation and awareness | The Daily Star

Tourists began to return to the picturesque Shada Pathor in Sylhet’s upazila Companiganj, relieving associated businesses that had shut down during the closures. PHOTO: CHEIKH NASIR

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Tourists began to return to the picturesque Shada Pathor in Sylhet’s upazila Companiganj, relieving associated businesses that had shut down during the closures. PHOTO: CHEIKH NASIR

The apparent return to basics, the shift towards a healthier life, the leap towards soliloquies have proven to be beneficial. At least in theory, we all agree that the world needed a fix. In principle, most of us side with the concept of the small and the intimate. The corporate world has fallen under the spell of virtual platforms that allow us to be both visible and invisible, or to be heard or not. What flexibilities and what freedom for a few. Amen.

Mornings don’t start with a thud. Online meetings don’t require us to be dressed to the hilt. And as the world turns to ease and comfort, the business in leisure and loungewear grows. Covid casual and special clothing is a hit, and the casual knitwear business is on the rise.

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Communication was the easiest and we all crossed continents in seconds. Platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams make life seamless while StreamYard turns us all into mini movie stars. All these platforms have discussion boxes that allow interventions or questions or instructions. There is no overlapping conversation. The administrator can silence a nagging speaker. The freedom to appear as you want while being under control exists. Screens can be shared; presentations are more focused. No meeting exceeds 120 min at most and most of the time, remains in the ideal and civilized setting of 60-90 minutes. Well done. The new world (not necessarily courageous) has begun. This new world has isolation encrypted in its software. Being alone is no longer a curse. Rather, it adds joy to his stream of consciousness.

World travel is limited by flights from certain destinations. Over time, people have gotten smarter about figuring out how to get around and with quarantine rules and how to spend fewer days in quarantine. Needless to say, the testing industry is booming. In England, where I quarantined in April, before Bangladesh was included in the red list category, I was asked for two tests: the second day and the eighth day. In addition, if one wanted early release, one could take a test on the fifth day to be released and gain freedom. The first two tests cost around 199 pounds. And on top of the two, restless as I am by nature, I paid an additional 144 pounds to get a test result in 24 hours. Strangely, the testing costs are astronomical, and private testing has issues in the test kits delivered. In the meantime, the testers have become multi-millionaires in the process.

Serco, who is in the service business, just through the NHS Track and Trace program, has increased his profit forecast by millions of pounds.

England is now gradually opening up its borders partially and has started including more countries in the green or orange lists, and plans to eventually get rid of all the lists. Incredibly low airfares, incredible hotel deals that now include more and more silence and calm, more farm-to-table menus, it all started.

In a remote European village, a small cod, cornbread and cabbage accompanied by a nano starter costs no less than 40 euros per person. Dessert often arrives again in a nano tray with microscopic portions of a meringue or a sophisticated, stingy serving of farmhouse oranges. The point is, why do our mountainous regions, our hills, our sea beach, our northern borders, remain unmarked? Even with the lockdown, if proper social distancing could be practiced and these resorts were revamped and offered 50% capacity for customers, why don’t we attract overseas customers and charge a premium? Why doesn’t our farm-to-table concept claim our claim to originality?

Maybe it’s time to realize that if those exotic trips to the west once sounded like a dream, it’s just a matter of realizing what we lack in our own country. In reality, on our side, we have to realize that we have beauty, but what we don’t have is branding.

With a crucial need to diversify our exports, it is quite obvious that a service economy should include tourism. According to a report by the Policy Research Institute, Vietnamese exports of non-factor services in 2019 amounted to USD 16.6 billion and registered an astonishing growth rate of 21% per year, while Bangladesh’s non-factor services grew. amount to 6.8 billion USD and are growing at a rate of 15 percent. Vietnam’s first non-factor service is travel, which totals $ 11.8 billion. What if we looked at similar opportunities for ourselves?

Hotels and resorts have been open since August 19. People flock to these places. In all fairness, a number of these resorts are close to world class and offer the very best in food and service. Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong Hill Tracts and Sylhet were prime destinations. Almost five to six million people travel to these destinations. Covid has been a serious drag on these successful businesses. However, after the reopening of these hotels and resorts, several tour operators also recorded good deals. Much of this activity is done through Facebook. So, f-commerce became popular, and as a result, start-ups began to see the light at the end of their first tunnel.

We are lucky to rename our own culture, our own hills and our own tastes. A return to originality, the old and ours is inevitable. The original and secular ideas all come back to life. After all, nothing is new except what has been forgotten or ignored.

Rubana Huq is a past president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

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