Coronavirus: Hajj agencies seek interest-free Tk 1,500 cr working capital


Dhaka, April 13: The Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB) has demanded the government provide interest-free working capital of Tk 1,500 crore to cover their losses due to the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic.HAAB President M Shahadat Hossain Taslim said they asked the government to give them a special incentive as the virus outbreak affected the Umrah, travel and tourism sectors badly.

The incentive proposal includes providing cash to Hajj and Umrah agencies to cover the losses that they have already faced; arrange Tk 1,500 crore interest-free working capital loan for them, give cash incentive to travel and tour operators, and arrange working capital loan for travel agents and tour operators under package-1 announced by the Prime Minister.

He said the sector plays an important role where around 1.2 lakh people are involved directly and indirectly. They sought the incentive to save people and their families. Meanwhile, they have sent a mail to the finance minister regarding the incentive.

Taslim said the current number of HAAB members is 1,238 while that of its officers and employees, including the owners of Hajj agencies, is around 20,000. It takes Tk 50 crore to provide their monthly salary, office rent, and other expenses.

Besides, around one lakh people are involved in the sector indirectly in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. The agencies serve the country’s 96 percent Hajj pilgrims and 100 percent Umrah performers.

The coronavirus outbreak has affected the sector badly. They suffered a loss of Tk 100 crore since the Saudi Arabia suspended the Umrah activities on February 26. They have bought the full package of visas, air tickets and hotel booking of 10,000 pilgrims for Umrah.

They also paid Tk 25 crore for the booking of 5,000 advance air tickets in the upcoming Ramadan.  It also cost Tk 50 crore for a monthly salary and office expenses.  So, the total net loss is Tk 175 crore.

Taslim said around one lakh pilgrims were taking preparations for Umrah in the next Ramadan where the transactions will be about Tk 1,000 crore.  They have taken preparations privately to send 1.20 lakh Hajj pilgrims in 2020. They will have to face Tk 4,800 crore if they fail and the amount is not manageable.

Besides, the agencies will have to pay monthly salaries and office rent of Tk 50 crore per head by June 30. So, the transaction and net loss will be Tk 6, 125 crore.

Many of the agencies will lose their capability of paying monthly salary and office rent due to the coronavirus fallout. As a result, 10,000 direct employees and 50,000 indirect employees in the country and Saudi Arabia can lose their jobs, he said.

All HAAB members are involved with the business of travel agents, tour operators and other sectors of the truism industry.

Many of them are involved with the business of aviation, inbound and outbound tourism, domestic tourism, hotel and resort, and tourist transportation.  All of these sectors are badly affected by the coronavirus outbreak.