Tourism on a roll as funds pour in
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.