Category Archives: Tourism, Travel, Hospitality and Leisure

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.