A weeklong vacation has brought life to the country's tourism industry in a period which is generally considered a dull season for hotel businesses and domestic airlines.
The occupancy rate in hotels and resorts in popular tourist destinations, including Cox's Bazar, has seen a huge rise thanks to the holidays for Buddha Purnima, May Day and Shab-e-Barat.
The inflow of tourists started soaring on April 27, said Aung Chak, manager of The Cox Today, a 3-star hotel in Cox's Bazar.
“Around 90 percent of the hotel's 270 rooms have already been booked.”
Normally, the off-peak season starts in April and continues till August in Cox's Bazar, when the hotel and resort operators offer discounts to attract tourists, Chak said.
“But, the weeklong vacation changed the scenario.”
There are at least 400 hotels—luxury and low-cost—in the city of the longest uncut sea beach in the world, he said. “Most of the rooms are either occupied or booked now.”
APM Nur A Alam, front desk manager of Seagull Hotel, a 5-star hotel in Cox's Bazar, said they have 170 rooms, including 20 suites.
“On Sunday, the occupancy rate hit 70 percent and we expect it to touch 90 percent by the weekend. None but some suites are available now for booking on May 1-2.”
“More people now want to live one or two nights lavishly in our hotel thanks to the rise in incomes of the general mass,” Alam said.
Besides Bandarban, the hill and nature lovers now also prefer going to Sajek Valley at Bagaichhori in Rangamati, said Suparna Debbarman, president of Cottage Malik Samity of Sajek, a council of local cottage owners.
Sajek is situated in Rangamati district but people go there via Khagrachhari as the communication is much easier through the route, Debbarman said.
“Generally people come to visit Sajek during weekends, but the vacation has made the area full of tourists.”
There are at least 200 cottages and resorts in the area, which can accommodate around 2,500 people, said Debbarman, who is also a director of Sampari Resort.
Visitors have booked most of the cottages and resorts in Sajek through the tour operators at least a week ago, he said.
“More people are calling us for advance bookings. But we can no longer accept their requests as we are now suffering from shortage of rooms.”
A good number of tourists are now staying in Khagrachhari at night and visit Sajek during daytime, he said. “For this reason, the tourists have to compete with others for advance bookings.”
The council strictly monitors the activities of the cottage owners to protect the tourists against any fraud in Sajek for the sake of establishing the zone as a favourite tourist destination, he said.
“We are all booked now,” a front desk officer of Hotel Sofia in Rangamati said preferring anonymity.
Many have purchased plane tickets way before the start of the weeklong vacation, said AKM Mahfuzul Alam, senior manager for marketing and sales at Novoair.
“All the tickets of our domestic routes are sold out now,” said the official of the airline which operates four flights a day on the Dhaka-Cox's Bazar route.
“Even, all tickets on our Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka route are sold out now.”