Kuakata, the beachside tourist spot, is prepped up by tourism industry operators ahead of the Eid vacation. Photo: Banglar Chokh
The tourism industry expects good business from the Eid as hotel and resort operators received a lot of bookings in the run-up to the festival, thanks to a stable political climate.
“We expect an increased number of tourists during the Eid vacation,” said Omar Sultan, president of Cox's Bazar Hotel-Motel and Guesthouse Owners Association.
Different hotels, motels and guesthouses in the beach city have sold 50 percent of the rooms for the July 31-August 1 duration, he said.
The industry was hit hard last year due to volatile politics over the national election. Hoteliers are now hopeful of recovering losses suffered in the previous season.
“We lost around Tk 8 crore last year to frequent shutdowns,” said Mohiuddin Khan Khokon, director for sales and marketing at Hotel The Cox Today.
This year, the hotel with 276 rooms has no vacancies from July 31 to August 3. It earns more than Tk 10 lakh in room tariffs a day if all the rooms are occupied, Khokon said.
Tour operators expect a high turnout of local tourists at popular destinations such as Cox's Bazar, Rangamati, Bandarban and Sylhet due to a weeklong vacation.
Green Holidays Tours, which arranges tours of Cox's Bazar, Rangamati and Bandarban, has received bookings from around 150 tourists for Eid holidays, said Md Borhan Uddin, the company's chief executive officer.
But the Green Holidays bookings this year are 80 percent lower than in the Eid season in 2011 and 2012, he added.
There are around 14,000 rooms, including 1,790 in 11 hotels and 8,750 in 175 guesthouses, in Cox's Bazar, according to industry insiders.
Nearly 1.5 lakh tourists visit the beach city a day during the Eid vacations, said Sultan of Cox's Bazar Hotel-Motel and Guesthouse Owners Association.
Airlines operating on the Dhaka-Cox's Bazar route have also sold almost all tickets on the route.
“We have sold all tickets on the Dhaka-Cox's Bazar route for two days after the Eid,” said Mofizur Rahman, managing director of Novoair.
Novoair, which charges Tk 6,600-8,400 for a one-way ticket on the Dhaka-Cox's Bazar route, has also received a good response on Dhaka-Jessore and Dhaka-Sylhet routes.
However, tour operators and hoteliers say poor road conditions have seriously affected the country's vibrant tourism industry.
Dilapidated roads, especially on the Dhaka-Cox's Bazar route, have significantly affected domestic tourism, said Taufiq Uddin Ahmed, president of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh.
Currently, a traveller will have to spend 18-20 hours on the road to get to Cox's Bazar from Dhaka by road, he said.
As a result, a large number of people now go abroad on holiday, Ahmed said.
Nearly two lakh Bangladeshis are expected to go abroad this Eid, said the president of Toab.
Bangladeshis are mainly visiting Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, China, India, Nepal and some European countries, said Ahmed.
“An increased number of tourists are going to India, Nepal and Thailand due to low travel costs,” said Borhan of Green Holidays Tours.
Around 300 Bangladeshis will visit Thailand, Nepal and Malaysia during this Eid vacation through Green Holidays, he said.
Syed G Qadir, general manager of Galaxy Holidays, another tour operator, said his agency will also arrange foreign visits for around 400 local people.
Simplified visa processing is another reason for the increase in outbound tourism, said Ahmed, the president of Toab, adding that Bangladeshi tourists are now getting visas to Malaysia, Thailand and Nepal without any hassle.
Besides, India is issuing multiple-entry visas for up to 12 months for Bangladeshis.
Bangladesh continued to top the list of six neighbouring countries in terms of tourist arrivals in India.
Travel and tourism contributed Tk 22,260 crore or 2.1 percent to Bangladesh's gross domestic product last year. This is expected to rise 7.7 percent to Tk 23,980 crore this year, World Travel and Tourism Council said in its latest study.
Spending by local tourists is expected to grow by 7 percent year-on-year in 2014 to Tk 39,670 crore, according to the London-based research organisation.