Category Archives: Tourism, Travel, Hospitality and Leisure

Special Tourist Zone will be set up in CHT

Special Tourist Zone will be set up in CHT

RANGAMATI, Nov 20 (BSS)-Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister GM Quader said a ‘Special Tourist Zone’ will be set up in Chittagong Hill Tracts area to increase the facilities for local and foreign tourists.

Addressing a meeting at Rangamati circuit house on Saturday afternoon GM Quader said according to the policy of the government, priority is given to hilly areas to flourish country’s tourism industry.

The minister called upon the affluent people of the society to come forward to set up more tourist centres in the private sector to welcome local and foreign tourists.

Later he visited the non-government tourists centres at Pedahting Ting and Tuktuk in Rangamati.

Intrepid travellers find Bangladesh a bargain

Intrepid travellers find Bangladesh a bargain

In the picture taken on February 13, 2010, a Bangladeshi girl participates in a procession during the Boshonto Utshob festival in Dhaka. The spring festival or Boshonto Utshob, celebrated on the first day of the month of Falgun in the Bengali calendar, is marked with various cultural performances.Photo: AFP

Afp, Dhaka

From Argentinian heavy metal fans to Scottish retirees, Joyanta Howlader’s couch has hosted the full spectrum of backpackers who arrive — sometimes with mixed feelings — in impoverished Bangladesh.

The south Asian country seems an unlikely stop on a budget traveller’s itinerary, but foreign visitor arrivals are rising and Bangladesh’s lack of tourist infrastructure is, ironically, proving an attraction.

“You have to be adventurous. There is no other way to travel in Bangladesh,” said Howlader, a 38-year-old Dhaka-based television producer who has hosted dozens of tourists through Couch Surfing, a hospitality exchange network.

“One backpacker who stayed with me, just hated it here, said he’d never come back. He was a real tourist, he just wanted an easy travel experience which Bangladesh is definitely not,” Howlader told AFP.

With mod-cons now available in backpacker haunts in Thailand, Vietnam and India, where prices are shooting up, increasing numbers of budget tourists are seeking out alternative, low-cost travel experiences elsewhere in Asia.

From spending a night on a stranger’s sofa for free, sampling Dhaka’s best biryani for a dollar a plate, or checking into a midrange hotel for less than 10 dollars a night, Bangladesh is about as cheap and adventurous as it comes.

Even a four-day all-inclusive cruise through the world’s largest mangrove forest on a traditional wooden boat will only cost around 150 dollars, far cheaper than a comparable trip in neighbouring India, experts say.

Bangladesh is one of only a few places left in the region that still offer the original pioneering travel experience, according to Lonely Planet’s Bangladesh author Stuart Butler.

“It is very easy to get well off the beaten track and is a place in which you can make your own discoveries and travel for weeks without meeting another western tourist — or any tourist for that matter,” Butler told AFP.

The problems of getting around and finding accommodation, particularly for women, in the conservative, Muslim-majority nation are, for some travellers, Bangladesh’s unique selling point, he said.

“For many travellers this lack of knowledge of the country and the lack of a tourist industry is the prime reason for visiting. Travelling in Bangladesh is a genuine adventure,” he said.

Tourists are still something of a rarity in Bangladesh with just 267,107 foreign visitor arrivals in 2009, according to government figures which do not distinguish between tourist arrivals and Bangladeshis with foreign passports.

This is up from 2000, when 199,211 foreign visitors arrived in the south Asian nation of 160 million people, and local tourism industry figures say they anticipate further growth.

“Inbound tourism is growing more than 10 percent a year — a few years ago, no one had heard of Bangladesh, they thought it was part of India,” said Taufiquddin Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Tour Operators Association.

“The average spend for package tourists is now around 500 dollars, which is less than they would spend in India or Nepal,” he said. “And we get a lot of backpackers coming here and just travelling on their own.”

Travelling in Bangladesh, while not for the faint-hearted, is extremely cheap, with the 27-hour trip from Dhaka to Khulna on The Rocket, the country’s most famous river ferry, costing just 15 dollars for a first-class cabin.

From Khulna it is easy to access the Sunderbans mangrove forest, which is the country’s most popular attraction, although northern Srimongal district’s tea gardens are also attracting interest, he said.

The biggest problem for the local tourism industry is the lack of any concerted government effort to promote the country, such as the successful “Incredible India” and “Malaysia Truly Asia” campaigns, he said.

“Bangladesh suffers from a negative image, but slowly things are changing for the better,” he said.

Bangladesh is one of travel bible Lonely Planet’s “Best Value Destinations” for 2011.

And for Mickey Leung, author of the Bradt Guide book on Bangladesh, there is no point in trying to fight Bangladesh’s international reputation — instead, the industry should try to capitalise on it.

“We’re not going to get away from that image. There is going to be another cyclone, people are going to keep talking about climate change damage… you can’t just sit and hope it will go away,” he told AFP.

“Everybody knows Bangladesh is a poor country, so let’s take that image (and) make it like: your decision to travel to Bangladesh represents your decision to change the world,” he said.

The government should focus on building up pro-poor, community based eco-friendly tourism, for example by providing loans for setting up guesthouses for backpackers, he said.

“I would like to see budget travellers come to Bangladesh with an open mind, and with a willingness to experience local hospitality. They have to leave luxury behind.”

Bangladesh records 30 pc rise in foreign tourists

Bangladesh records 30 pc rise in foreign tourists
‘Virgin’ Sundarbans catches attention of holidaymakers from abroad

A crocodile in the Sundarbans. Source:

Jasim Uddin Khan

DHAKA, JAN 26: Over 20,000 foreign holidaymakers, mostly European and Japanese, visited Bangladesh this winter with a solid 30 per cent year-on-year growth in the trend, thanks to the emergence of Sundarban as unique selling point (USP). A total of 10 local tour operators forged tie-ups with around 50 international operators across Europe, Japan and the USA, and the latter would send those tourists to Bangladeshi operators as their outsource partners. The local operators had handled about 15,000 tourists in the year 2009.
Apart from a stable political scenario, trustworthy security measures in place and standard agreements with reputed international tour operators have helped develop the gradual increase of tourist inflow to the Bangladesh.

These operators earned about USD 22 million by operating the tourists, as European and Japanese tourists spend on an average $800 during their seven-day stay in the country.

Brightwater Holidays, Heritage Group Travel, IBT Travel of the UK, Eurobus Network of Germany, Backdoor Travel of Holland, and IACE Travel and Atlas Tour of Japan signed agreements with Bangladeshi operators to send tourists for Bangladeshi packages.

“We have signed agreements with reputed international tour operators who send European, US and Japanese holidaymakers to Bangladesh under their packages. The growth trend reflects that Bangladesh tourist spots are catching the attention of international holidaymakers,” Chief Executive Officer of Guide Tour Hasan Mansur said. He said Europeans did not have much interest in Bangladesh’s sea beaches and hill district sites. “They are interested in the Sundarbans, as it they find it ‘virgin’ and ‘green tourism spot’.”

Mansur said his company operated over 5,500 tourists in 2010, while Bengal Travel, Journey Plus, Silver-way, Riverine Tour and Green Holiday were the other players who handled the outsourced foreign tourists’ flow.

Bengal Travel top executive Masud Hossain said his company brought about 4,500 tourists, mostly Japanese, this year with a significant growth. Echoing Mansur’s views, Masud said the foreign tourists were interested in the Sundarbans and Bandarban to see the nature of jungle life. “We are mainly showcasing the Sundarbans as the USP to the foreigners and we are getting more and more response from them,” Masud said.

Toufiq Rahman of Journey Plus said they signed agreement with seven Japanese, two UK and two other European operators to handle international tours.

He said after getting package orders, his company issued letter to local deputy commissioners to ensure security of the guests during their journey to the locality. He expressed his satisfaction over the support the law enforcing agencies provided them.

Currently, 10 million tourists are visiting the SAARC countries—India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka—and Afghanistan, while global movement is above one billion tourists per year.

The region’s share of the tourism revenue is only $10 billion out of $852 billion earnings from global tourism.

International arrivals worldwide are expected to reach nearly 1.6 billion by 2020, of which 1.2 billion would be intra-regional and 378 million would be long-haul travellers, predicts UNWTO in its “Tourism 2020 Vision” report on world tourism.

Annisul Huq, former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and president of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), said South Asia had a huge potential for tourism that needed only some joint efforts to cash in on the same.

He underscored the need for political will of the regional leaders to draw up ambitious plans for doubling the tourist inflow to the region in a decade.

An eco-resort that stands apart

Green Tech
An eco-resort that stands apart

Left, a cottage of Mermaid Eco Resort; top right, a view of the sea from the resort, and the front view. Photo: Mermaid

Iqramul Hasan

Cox’s Bazar is no more clamouring to be listed as one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but it attracts tourists in increasing numbers from home and abroad.

Pechar Dweep, only a 15-minute ride from Kalatoli point of Cox’s Bazar toward Himchhori, is a place of natural beauty where the waves of the sea kiss the foothills.

It is rare that someone making a trip to Cox’s Bazar should be missing out on the panoramic Himchhori.

As you venture out on the long black tarred road to Himchhori and have travelled a few kilometres with the choppy sea on your right, a bright sign on a weather-washed board “Mermaid Eco Resort”. A cluster of tiny thatched cottages must attract your attention. There you are on the threshold of an eco-resort housed on five acres.

Anyone should easily understand that the resort operators must be an environment-conscious group as one glances at the nice sign of Mermaid painted on a piece of recycled wood pegged at the rather unassuming entrance.

Anisul Huque Chowdhury, managing director, explains why he says Mermaid is an eco-resort.

“Since I began the construction of this resort in 2003, one thing I kept in mind that there must not be any harm done to the natural beauty of the place,” Chowdhury said.

He said the resort would not be put in place without the sophisticated design of Ziauddin Khan, the chairman of the resort. “We invested around Tk 4 crore to develop and build the resort. The materials used in construction were mainly old blocks of wood.”

But the authorities did not allow felling a single tree within the resort area, keeping all the trees falling within the accommodation zone also intact, he said. “Also, we planted around 40,000 saplings to make the resort greener.”

Chowdhury said the first venture was Mermaid Café in Kalatoli area, where recycled materials were used in construction and fresh organic foods were served to the customers.

“The success of that café motivated us to build a resort some distance away from the town.”

The resort owner recruited 70 percent of the staff from the locality, most of whom had earlier been struggling to make a living by poaching natural resources from the nearby hill forests.

Chowdhury said a plant recycles the waste generated at the resort. “The end of the day sees us separating the food wastes, paper and bottles for recycling.”

Food wastes are recycled to generate fertiliser that again is used in the organic farming of vegetables the resort serves to the guests.

Chowdhury said Mermaid distributed the excess organic fertilisers among the village farmers.

The waste bottles are used in the decor of the resort and mixed with other materials to make mortar used in construction, he said.

Razib Ahmed, the marketing manager of Mermaid, said the resort wanted to attract mainly those tourists who are environment-conscious.

Christopher Craig, country director of a multinational company, said he felt at home being a guest at Mermaid and was happy with the standards maintained by the resort.

“To protect the natural beauty of the countryside like Cox’s Bazar, there is no alternative to building this kind of eco-resorts,” he added.

According to Craig, Cox’s Bazar is already congested and overburdened with dense concrete structures. He said, “It is not a very good thing for eco-tourism.”

“As an environment conscious traveller, I feel Mermaid makes efforts to protect the nature against contamination,” he added.

Ria Maria who visited the resort on several occasions said: “It is the best resort in the country as far as my experience goes.” Maria said the resort did not use any air conditioners; the natural air is sufficient there and so they save energy.

“The rather simple cottages and other structures were built in a way so that the natural atmosphere remains intact there,” she added. Maria said her friends who visited the resort had the same feelings.

There was a time, when eco-tourists avoided visiting Cox’s Bazar because of the widespread pollution of the local environment and the sea. Chowdhury said: “We got a lot of tourists in the last one year who really cared about the environment and enjoyed their stay at our resort.”

Tourists who come to Cox’s Bazar are mostly residents in different cities living in tall buildings, he added. “Tourists prefer a place which is in a natural setting and far from any noise.”

“We raised Mermaid using recycled wood and other materials, not exceeding the height of the existing trees.”

Mahfuz Ahmed, manger of the resort, said since inception they had received around 10,000 guests till then. Of them, more than 40 percent were foreigners and some of them revisited the resort on a number of occasions, he added. The tourism minister, diplomats, writers and many other environment lovers visited the resort.

Talking about their future plan, Chowdhury said he plans to instal solar panels of 5KW capacity soon. “We have a plan to supply power to the local households also, as Pechar Dweep does not have any other power supply.” A central effluent treatment plant is also included in his future plan.

The resort owner is building another resort, Club Mermaid, near the existing one.

Turkish Airlines launches flight from Dhaka

Turkish Airlines launches flight from Dhaka
Staff correspondent

Turkish Airlines on Sunday launched its first flight from Dhaka to Istanbul via Karachi.

The airlines will operate four flights in a week at 22:50pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Istanbul via Karachi, said a press release.

An inaugural ceremony to start the flight was held that the airport followed by a press conference.

Civil aviation and tourism ministry secretary Shafique Alam Mehdi, Turkish ambassador to Bangladesh Vakur Erkul and civil aviation chairman Mahmud Hossain were present. Turkish airlines new route from Dhaka would allow more Bangladeshis the opportunity to explore Istanbul, Turkey and beyond, said the press release.

The airlines currently flies to 167 destinations, including 128 international and 39 domestic lines.

A member of the Star Alliance network since April 1, 2008, Turkish Airlines continues to maintain its dedication to becoming a global leader in the airline industry, said the release.

Tk 260 crore tourism promotional campaign planned

Tk 260 crore tourism promotional campaign planned

DHAKA, Dec 26: The Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry is to seek Taka 260 crore from the finance ministry for implementing its aggressive tourism promotional campaign ‘Visit Bangladesh-2011’. “The government has declared the year 2011 as the tourism year and set a target to attract one million tourists through a huge promotional campaign,” Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister G M Quader told BSS today.

On an average, four lakh foreign travelers visit Bangladesh a year. The ministry would place the Taka 260 crore budget for carrying out the campaign at the next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Tourism to be chaired by Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith on December 27. After getting nod of the committee the detailed promotional programme would be placed for final approval at the National Tourism Council chaired by Prime Minister sheikh Hasina.

“We have already chalked out a huge promotional campaign with traditional and cultural flavor at home and abroad next year targeting the foreign tourists, who are looking for new destinations of making holidays,” the minister said.

The year-long programme also includes staging of road shows and Bangladesh week in different countries as well as inviting renowned international writers and journalists to visit Bangladesh. The country has lots of tourist tempting treasures in terms of both natural beauty, culture, heritage and archeological aspects, he said, adding, “but we have never conducted such huge international promotional campaign to attract travelers.”

Repackaging Bangladesh

Repackaging Bangladesh
Ashfaqur Rahman

Lonely Planet, one of the world’s leading travel guidebooks, owned by BBC worldwide, has ranked Bangladesh as the Best Value Destination in the world for 2011. It names nine other countries/cities to complete the list of top ten. Behind Bangladesh stand Nicaragua, Washington D.C., Paris, Philippines, Argentina, Naples, Ukraine and Syria.

Each of these destinations boasts of some unique cost saving feature. But the Lonely Planet says that an international visitor will be rewarded most and get the maximum “value for his money” if he visits Bangladesh.

Does all this sound gimmicky? Not so, if one sees what attractions Bangladesh offers. Lonely Planet says in unequivocal terms that in that country you can get marvelous meals for under $1. A midrange hotel room for 10 times less than what is available in a similar category elsewhere. “You will pay a little more to get around the Sundarbans National Park on a tiger spotting tour — $150 or thereabouts — but it is still peanuts, even compared to what you pay next door in India.” Critics, however, point out that such a list only refers to “cheap destinations.”

Lonely Planet says that this ranking is based on the feedback it has received from travelers “getting their money’s worth.” And they have, besides their staff and authors, a 600,000 strong online community to present to their readers the best places to go and things to do around the world. Next year (2011), we may, therefore, expect a large number of tourists to avail of the value for money deals in Bangladesh. It will give a boost to our touristic image.

To many of us this ranking sounds incredible. But Bangladesh seems to be slowly and imperceptibly becoming the “new kid in the block.”

Some people say that something immense is happening in Bangladesh. Positive developments in many sectors are taking place in the country. They say, look at the surge of RMG export orders. See the line of local and foreign banks lining up our main streets in Dhaka and elsewhere. Check the large number of high-rises changing the skyline of our cities. Feel the jamming of our streets with mid-size and big cars.

Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world that was not affected by the recent global recession. Today, Bangladesh boasts of shipbuilding capability and is looking forward to becoming a regional communication hub. Foreign remittances increased during the global downturn just as exports grew and imports bloated. Human development is also noteworthy.

Sceptics argue that because Bangladesh’s economy had little exposure to the outside world, it was not affected by the slump. The country produces and exports basic RMG products, which come cheap. The countries affected by recession switched to Bangladesh as a source of supply as most of them could not afford high-end textiles and garments.

While acknowledging that there is some truth in what the sceptics say, the point is that Bangladesh has moved up the value chain too and has made healthy structural changes in production and marketing. But let it also be clear that individual entrepreneurs also took grave risks and created opportunities for themselves. Today, they are reaping some of the benefits that accompanied the risks. Their success can also be seen in other sectors like leather, pharmaceuticals and jute manufacturing. Agriculture is, of course, already a success in many ways.

The dilemma before all of us is that Bangladesh could have attained this level of success earlier if the country had not suffered from an image problem. Even with present successes, the entrepreneurs are not confident that they will not stumble again on this count.

The western media has largely been responsible for creating and hyping much of our negative image. We also had a certain category of leaders in the past who, for the sake of foreign aid, were reluctant to highlight any positive news lest it would lessen their chance of getting this aid. Thus, the country was in an image trap that restricted foreign investments, tourism and foreign talent.

However things are likely to change. One important reason is that certain prestigious international investment banks and credit rating agencies have, after evaluation of our economy, given Bangladesh enviable ratings. Thus, Standard and Poor, Moody’s Investors, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Price Waterhouse Coopers have given good citations. It seems that, at long last, Bangladesh is being noticed by the international community. In keeping with this changing image we need to change into new clothes.

So what do we do? At the outset, we must find ways to reduce our negative image. We must start doing things that are expected from a responsible and democratic country. Next, we must identify our national strengths and weaknesses. We must highlight our core national values and build up a branding profile. This will be the start of the repackaging of Bangladesh for the world.

We must find out what other countries Bangladesh is usually compared to, in the region and in the world at large, and what type of packaging these countries use in order to attract favourable attention. We should bring forth our core values, and associate Bangladesh with those values that investors like or respect. These value assets can make our country more attractive and compelling than our competitors. This will get Bangladesh differentiated and promoted.

Bangladesh has to be identified in the mind of visitors and investors through a cluster of images of the country, like:

– Sounds (our music);

– Colour (our flowers and dress);

– Words (our songs);

– Shapes;

– Smells (our cuisine)

-Other symbols (our values– resilience, adaptability).

These will persuade a foreigner to come, stay and interact closely for investment or tourism. The clarity and strength of these chosen images of a country in a foreigner’s mind will gradually overtake the negative images of Bangladesh that persist in him.

During 2011, Bangladesh will be hosting a great sports extravaganza, the Cricket World Cup. Our government has big plans to boost tourism on that occasion. Major multi-national companies are also likely to come next year to Bangladesh to see if they can invest, especially in textiles and RMG. They will come only if they get favourable reports about Bangladesh in 2010 from their peers and partners already operating in Bangladesh. Their report will prompt the newcomers to take positive decision.

Bangladesh has most of the economic fundamentals. Investors and tourists should normally flock to a country like ours. But they desist because, among other things, we have not been able to get rid of our bad image. Furthermore, we have not yet been able to create a new brand image. We must invent a new slogan for Bangladesh, just as Lonely Planet has given us one of its own.

Time is running out. The tourists are at our gates. The investors are packing their bags.

Ashfaqur Rahman is a former Ambassador and Chairman of the Centre for Foreign Affairs.

Mega plan for development of tourism sector

Mega plan for development of tourism sector
Target of earning Tk 5,000cr

The government is implementing a mega plan for the development of tourism sector with a target of earning Taka 3,000 crore to 5,000 crore a year from the sector.

For smooth implementation of the project, the government has already finalised tourism act and tourism policy.

The tourism act has been approved by the cabinet and is awaiting passage by parliament.

The tourism policy would be announced soon.

Civil aviation and tourism ministry sources said the tourism act would be passed in the next session of parliament.

When in force, this law would help achieve a revolutionary progress in tourism sector.

It will establish the sole control of the civil aviation and tourism ministry on the country’s tourist spots.

As per the new law, no structures could be built in any area of tourism without approval of the ministry or concerned authorities.

After the passage of the law, a list of tourist sports would be published in a gazette notification to preserve those.

Besides, development activities would be carried out in those areas as per the government plan.

In the proposed law, there is a provision for developing special tourist zones for foreigners.

Ministry sources said an exclusive tourist zone is likely to be set up at Mankhali in Cox’s Bazar at the initial stage.

There are other rules and regulations in the law for development of tourism sector.

Along with these, the government is implementing a 10-year mega plan in three phases.

Under the plan, 2,200 modern and attractive tourist spots would be developed in the country.

Local government division, city corporations, department of environment, district administrations and other departments and agencies would work in coordination to this end.

The country is currently earning a revenue of Taka 500 to 600 from the tourism sector.

The revenue earning from the sector was Taka 449.38 crore in 2005, Taka 553.6 crore in 2006, Taka 526.51 crore in 2007, Taka 612.45 crore in 2008 and Taka 573.79 crore in 2009.

After implementation of the government’s mega plan, the number of foreign tourists would increase to 40 lakh in next 10 years.

This will create the opportunity of earning Taka 3,000 to 5,000 from the sector, according to sources in civil aviation and tourism ministry.

Work on development of special tourist zones begins

Work on development of special tourist zones begins
BSS, Dhaka

The government has started work on developing ‘special tourist zones’ for promotion of the country’s tourism sector.

To this end, the authorities concerned identified 700 spots from which sites would be selected to develop as tourism zones.

The objective of the programme, to be implemented by the civil aviation and tourism ministry, is to generate employment and earn foreign currency by attracting the foreign tourists.

The government is going to enact ‘Bangladesh Reserved Areas for Tourism and Special Tourism Zones Act 2010.’

The draft of the law has already been approved by the cabinet. This law will prohibit construction of unplanned and illegal structures in the places of tourist attraction.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Shafiq Alam Mehdi said the special tourist zones would be developed in public-private joint ventures or at individual initiatives.

The formulation of the new tourism law in a short time proved the Prime Minister’s keenness for development of tourism sector, he said.

Development of the sector would create employment opportunities for huge population and earn foreign currencies, he added.

The tourism secretary said the necessary structures would be built and arrangements made in the selected tourist spots for the local and foreign tourists.

The special tourist zones would be set up in a very planned way. The tourism project would be implemented by 2013. Work is also on for adoption of a long-term plan to be implemented by 2021.

Sources said local and foreign entrepreneurs are coming forward with investment proposals because of the tourism-friendly plans of the present government.

More five-star hotels planned

More five-star hotels planned

Sayeda Akter

Unique Group, the owning company of Westin Dhaka, is set for expansion by opening three more five-star hotels to tap growing demand for high-heeled accommodation.

Initially, the company plans to invest around Tk 2,000 crore for expansion, while Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide will be the managing company for all three hotels.

A deal will be signed today between Unique Group and Starwood, the parent company of renowned global brands such as Westin, Sheraton and Le Meridien.

“At present, the local market for five-star hotels is increasing at a rate of 15 percent a year, and it will double in the next three years,” said Mohammad Noor Ali, managing director of Unique Group.

“So as an investor, I have to look to the future and plan on capturing the country’s hospitality business in the long run. And that is the main reason behind this expansion plan.”

Under the plan, two five-star hotels are to be constructed in Dhaka: Le Meridien in Banani and The Westin Dhaka 2 in Gulshan. A third, also named Westin, will open in Chittagong, the first five-star hotel for the commercial capital.

Construction of the hotels will be complete by 2012-end and all are likely to begin operations the following year.

“Simultaneously, I have Starwood, one of the best hotel management companies in the world, with me, which gives me added confidence,” said Ali, also the managing director of Westin Dhaka.

In recent years, the hospitality sector in Bangladesh has boomed in the five-star hotel segment. Three new five-star hotels opened in Dhaka in the past four years, taking the number to five.

Industry experts said the capital city now has around 1,250 five-star rooms. The hotels reach full occupancy only in winter and an average occupancy rate of around 75 percent can easily make the business profitable, they added.

“One of the drivers of growth has been the increase in foreign business people visiting the country, as both the garments and telecom industries have taken off,” said Ali.

“Apart from that, the geographical location of these hotels will also exploit the proximity to airport and the garment belt in Ashulia-Savar, as well as the headquarters of the major mobile telecom operators,” he said. “The country’s diplomatic zone is also near our hotels.”

Ali is optimistic about profiting from the hotel in Chittagong, as the number of affluent visitors, including investors, top officials from banks and port, and shipping businessmen, are increasing fast in the region.

The company is conducting studies to assess demand for accommodation and the regular flow of guests to the port city. The room rent for the Westin in Chittagong will be slightly lower than in Dhaka, said the Unique Group chief.

The annual turnover of Westin Dhaka was Tk 106 crore, and the operating profit was around Tk 47 crore in 2008, which grew by 20 percent in 2009, Ali said.

The 235-room Westin has an average occupancy of 80 percent, while the hotel has gained a 25 percent share of the total market.

Tourists to get added pleasure as sea cruise starts at Cox’s Bazar

Tourists to get added pleasure as sea cruise starts at Cox’s Bazar

Keari Cruise and Dine sails through Moheshkhali channel with tourists from Cox's Bazar as the luxury ship started its maiden trip yesterday morning.Photo: STAR

A Correspondent, Cox’s Bazar

Luxury ship Keari Cruise and Dine started its maiden trip yesterday, offering tourists in Cox’s Bazar a unique opportunity for enjoying the picturesque natural beauty of the Bay of Bengal and the beach.

Lawmaker from Cox’s Bazar-3 (Sadar-Ramu) constituency, Lutfor Rahman inaugurated the trip at the BIWTA jetty at Nuniachhara on the estuary of Bakkhali River in the town at 10:00am.

During its daily trip from the jetty, the ship will cross through Moheshkhali and Sonadia channels and sail up to Inani beach in Ukhia upazia. The 35-kilometre trip will take one and a half hours. In another 90 minutes, it will return to Bakkhali River, touching Himchhari, Baro Chhara and Kolatoli.

The ship with a 150-seat conference room and arrangement for 310 passengers’ travelling will take three two-way trips (morning, noon, afternoon) daily from Bakkhali River to Inani beach and a night trip will be added later, said Mohammad Mohsin, director of Keari Cruise and Dine.

A tourist will have to pay Tk 1200 to Tk 1800 for the three-hour trip, including high quality food, tea, coffee and snacks, said officials of Keari Tours and Services Ltd that has taken the initiative.

The initiative has offered tourists the rare opportunity to watch the coast with hills and streams, fishermen’s catching and drying fish while travelling in the sea, said several tourists narrating experience of their first trip by the ship.

New five-star hotel to brighten Cox’s Bazar image

New five-star hotel to brighten Cox’s Bazar image
Sajjadur Rahman

A local entrepreneur is going to build a five-star hotel based on international timesharing concept in Cox’s Bazar at a cost of around Tk 150 crore.

The hotel — Sea Pearl Beach and Spa — is being built at Inani, some 20 kilometres away from Cox’s Bazar, and is expected to start commercial operations in February 2012. Land development has started in over eight acres.

The hotel has already been affiliated with Interval International, an operating segment of Interval Leisure Group Inc, listed on NASDAQ as IILG, a leading global provider of membership and leisure services in hospitality and vacation industry.

“Despite having the world’s longest sea beach, Cox’s Bazar lacks many recreational facilities. This hotel will meet all the needs of the holidaymakers, both from home and abroad,” said Aminul Haque, managing director of the hotel.

He said: “This will be the first green or eco-friendly hotel in the country.” Waste and water will be recycled and solar power will be used in the hotel.

Haque already owns a three-star hotel, Sea Crown, in Cox’s Bazar.

About adoption of international timesharing idea, he said it will help get international tourists, particularly the members of the Interval International that has 45 lakh members across the globe.

Interval International operates membership programmes for the backpackers and provides value-added services to its clients worldwide. Based in Miami in the US, the company has been a pioneer and innovator in serving the vacation ownership market for more than 30 years.

A timeshare is a form of ownership or right to the use of a property, or the term used to describe such properties. These properties are typically resort condominium units, in which multiple parties hold rights to use the property, and each sharer is allotted a period of time (typically one week, and almost always the same time every year) in which they may use the property. It is also known as ‘holiday ownership’ that is the art of sharing one’s ownership in the resort with other people and having the ability to swap or exchange that time to another resort anywhere in the world depending on availability.

Members of Sea Pearl Beach and Spa will avail of the facilities of Interval International-affiliated 2,500 hotels and resorts in over 75 countries.

“A membership contract will be for 20 years and cost Tk 3 lakh to Tk 5 lakh,” said Haque. “A member will be given seven days to spend in any Interval International-affiliated resort every year.”

Only the access fee, which is $80 in Asia and $120 in Europe and the US, will be charged, he added.

“The hotel will bring revolution in Bangladesh’s tourism and hospitality industry in terms of earning foreign currency and building the image of the country,” said Sunit Banerji, an international expert in hospitality and leisure management, who is providing consultancy for the project.

The hotel will consist of 200 rooms for residential accommodation including 150 timeshare rooms and suites. It will have the facilities such as spa, bar, barbecue, water sports, swimming pool, children amusement, restaurant, coffee shop, lobby, gymnasium, indoor-outdoor games, air-conditioned shuttle bus for pick-up and drop services and sight seeing.

The hotel will create employment for over 300 persons in different categories, the managing director said.

Of the Tk 146 crore-project cost, Prime Bank will raise Tk 85 crore as syndication fund.

“This will be a unique project in Bangladesh in many aspects, including timesharing and green concepts,” said Touhidul Alam Khan, executive vice president of corporate banking division of Prime Bank.

He said the hotel would be able to render international standard services that are absent in many cases in Cox’s Bazar.

United to fly to Manchester

United to fly to Manchester
Unb, Dhaka

United Airways (BD) Ltd, a private sector airline in the country, is going to operate flights to Manchester and Birmingham in the UK.

The airline is also procuring two B767-300/200 ER aircraft, which are likely to be commissioned on Sylhet-London routes from summer 2010.

It has been operating two passenger flights a week on Dhaka-London (Gatwick) route since November 21 last year. It is also planning to introduce additional passenger flights to London (Gatwick) from Dhaka and Sylhet.

United Airways came up with the plan to increase its flight frequencies to London from two to five per week following a two-day successful meeting on Air Service Agreement between Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh (CAAB) and British Civil Aviation Department (BCAD), said a press release yesterday.

The airline is currently operating flights from Dhaka to London, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Chittagong, Jessore, Sylhet and Cox’s Bazar and also from Chittagong to Kolkata.

Tourism on a roll as funds pour in

Tourism on a roll as funds pour in

A view of Padma Resort, located in a shoal on the mighty river. Over the last five years, new investors have entered the tourism sector with a lot of funds. The private sector has emerged as the driver of the hospitality industry in Bangladesh. Photo: STAR

Sayeda Akter

The hospitality industry witnessed rapid growth, receiving Tk 5,000 crore in 2005-2009, said the civil aviation and tourism ministry.

The funds went mostly into the development of hotels, motels, resorts, amusement parks and restaurants at popular tourist destinations.

From 2005 to 2009, around 500 hotels have been built at popular tourist destinations, including Dhaka, Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Sylhet, Bogra and Khulna that created around 40,000 new jobs. At the same time, around 40 resorts and 15 amusement parks were also built across the country in the same period.

Most investment came from the private sector to tap the growing trend of travelling to tourist destinations by the urban middle class, according to the ministry.

The government spent around Tk 30 crore in the same period to build accommodation facilities, increase product quality, renovate tourist destinations and identify new tourist spots.

Most hotels and motels were built in Cox’s Bazar. Around 180 hotels were built there in the last five years. Industry insiders said the investment flow started to grow from 2001, with many new investors entering the sector.

Hasan Mansur, managing director of Guide Tours Ltd, the oldest private tour operator in the country, said better accommodation at different tourist spots played a major role in increasing the number of domestic tourists.

“The first and foremost concern of a tourist is accommodation, which improved a lot in the last five years. The increasing number of new hotels, motels and resorts across the country played a role in boosting domestic tourism,” he said.

“The new hotels, motels and other entertainment facilities catered to the needs of both tourists and local entrepreneurs. It increased revenue for the sector. Simultaneously, employment was also generated for many locals,” he added.

However, Mansur stressed the need for government monitoring to ensure environment-friendly construction and better sewerage system.

Despite intense competition, business is brisk for different hotels and motels.

Abul Kashem Chowdhury, owner of Honeymoon Cottage in Cox’s Bazar, said he began operations in 2006 and is now thinking about opening another small hotel next to his present establishment.

“When I started, there were only 40-50 hotels operating in Cox’s Bazar. Now the number is more than 250, which increases competition in the sector,” he said. “We have to think about improving our services, as many real estate companies are now coming here.”

“At the same time, business is never dull here anymore, so I am thinking about opening another small hotel,” said Chowdhury.

He said business is satisfactory, as occupancy remains full during the peak season and at least 60 percent in the off-peak season.

Apart from Cox’s Bazar, business at other destinations is also promising. One example is Nazim Gahr, built on a hillock in Sylhet.

It started operations in October 2007 and achieved more than 90 percent occupancy during the peak season, according to owners.

“When we started off in our native village, we were inspired by an observation that people are now comfortable travelling inside the country, instead of going to Malaysia or Singapore,” said Nazim Farhan Choudhury, owner of the resort.

Starting with only 14 rooms, the resort has recently completed a major renovation and added 30 more rooms to enhance occupancy and revenue.

“I don’t think we will lose out in this business, as we are getting more guests and more investors in the sector. The future is bright,” added Choudhury.

Along with private investment, the government is trying to take policy and budgetary measures to further give a boost to the tourism industry, said Shafique Alam Mehedi, acting secretary of the civil aviation and tourism ministry.

He said the government is now investing in several projects at different destinations.

Five-star hotel in the making in Ctg

Five-star hotel in the making in Ctg
Staff Correspondent, Ctg

AK Khan and Company has started construction of a five-star hotel in Chittagong at a cost of nearly Tk 300 crore.

Chairman of the company AK Shamshuddin Khan yesterday laid the foundation stone of International Niketan Hotel at Batali Hills in the port city.

Owners expect the hotel to be opened partially before the ICC World Cup 2011 will provide services to the cricket players and other visitors.

Khan said Chittagong with its natural beauty, the largest seaport and increasing business prospects has become a favourable choice for businesspeople and tourists, both from home and abroad.

He said the hotel with all international amenities would provide resort atmosphere and services to the businesspeople and tourists.

Managing Director of the company Salahuddin Kashem Khan said the aim of the project is to positively change the image of the port city.

Mentioning the two group-stage matches of the ICC 2011 World Cup Cricket in Chittagong, he hoped to complete some segments of the project by the time the world cup cricket comes to Bangladesh.

Earlier, Zia Uddin Khan, deputy managing director of the company and the project director of the hotel, presented different aspects of the hotel and historical and cultural background of Chittagong.

Officials said the eco-sustainable hotel on two hilltops would follow sustainable development system to preserve natural landscape and beauty.