After six months of closure due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the government has decided to reopen all museums and heritage sites under the Department of Archaeology on a limited scale from Wednesday.
"We are reopening the archaeological sites and museums from tomorrow (Wednesday), as the government approved our application for reopening. Earlier we had proposed the Cultural Affairs Ministry to reopen the country's heritage sites on a limited scale by maintaining health guidelines, and the approval order came to us today", Director-General of the Archaeology Department Md Hannan Mia told UNB.
"As we have stopped welcoming the visitors and tourists in all our archaeological sites and museums since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown from March 28, we are reopening these heritage sites on a limited scale after six months", the DG added.
He further added that the visitors will have to maintain proper health guidelines such as wearing face-masks. By maintaining health guidelines, the visitors can visit the sites from 10 am to 5 pm everyday and 12 pm to 5 pm on Monday, except for the department holiday for these sites on Sunday.
However, the National Museum in Shahbagh and Ahsan Manjil in Old Dhaka in the capital are not included in this reopening as they operate under separate authorities.
According to the Archaeology Department, there are 21 heritage museums and 518 heritage sites in Bangladesh under the department. Visitors and tourists pay entry fees for 21 museums and around 10-12 archaeological sites to visit these places.
In the 2018-19 fiscal year, the department targeted to have at least 48 lakh visitors which ended up having approximately 58.45 lakh tourists that year. However, the scenario changed in 2019-2020 FY as the department's target was 44 lakh visitors but only 32 lakh tourists visited the heritage museums and heritage sites.
As per the earning, the revenue income of the department was fixed around Tk 5 crores and it ended up earning Tk 6.92 crores in FY 2018-19. The scenario also got changed in the economic target, as the department only earned Tk 5.34 crores in 2019-20 FY against the targeted amount of Tk 8.54 crores, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The tourism sector in Bangladesh largely depends on heritage tourism by welcoming the local and international visitors and researchers from abroad who mostly visit the country for the interest of archaeology, as the country is blessed with many significant and historical archaeological infrastructures.
The government lost a huge amount of non-tax revenues and thousands of people lost their income sources related to these sites, and had to pass very difficult days during the lockdown - which the authority is hoping to change with this reopening.
"Our new fiscal year (2020-21) has already started and we set a revenue target of Tk 8 crore. We are expecting around 49 lakh tourists in this ongoing FY", DG Md Hannan Mia told UNB.