FOREIGN companies with nationals working in Bangladesh’s garment and building industries have suspended travel to the country and told workers there to stay at home after the deadly attack by militants on a restaurant in Dhaka last Friday (1).
The hospitality sector is also seeing cancellations, hotels are tightening security and foreign embassies are looking at reducing staffing after the attack claimed the lives of nine Italians, seven
Japanese, an American, an Indian and some Bangladeshi nationals.
Fast Retailing Co, the Japanese owner of the Uniqlo casual-wear brand, said it would suspend all but critical travel to Bangladesh and had told staff there to stay indoors.
Bangladesh’s $26 billion garment industry has been bracing for the fallout of Friday’s killings, fearing major retailers from Uniqlo to Marks & Spencer and Gap could rethink their sourcing plans after the latest attack targeting foreigners.
One of the world’s poorest countries, Bangladesh relies on garments for around 80 per cent of its exports and for about four million jobs, and ranks behind only China as a supplier of clothes
to developed markets like Europe and the US.
Uniqlo has 10 Japanese staff in Bangladesh, one of its major production hubs outside China, and was among the first to confirm it would tighten travel restrictions already in place after attacks last year. A spokeswoman said all but critical travel was suspended.
“Obviously this is generating a lot of concern with all the brands my company works with,” said Shovon Islam, the head of Sparrow Group, which supplies top brands like Marks & Spencer
He said after a foreigner was killed in Bangladesh last year, some overseas companies pared back travel to the country and asked for meetings to be held in Bangkok, New Delhi and Hong
“This time the intensity of the threat is much higher and we will definitely see companies altering their plans,” Islam said. The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a group of mostly European retailers, said it would review security measures for its staff in Bangladesh.
While it is too early to say whether the group’s signatories will shift production out of Bangladesh, it may affect travel restrictions for buyers coming to Bangladesh, a spokesman for the group said.