Bangladeshi hoteliers are confident about their market in the longterm but stress much rests on a dramatic improvement of transportation and taxes.
“The important thing is the infrastructure,” H.M. Hakim Ali President of the Bangladesh International Hotel Association, told Travel Daily in an interview in Dhaka. Bangladesh’s economy is in the early stages of a dramatic take-off meaning things such as rail and roads that have long been neglected are now behind the curve.
However the government is now stepping in with an extensive problem of public works to improve transport both within the capital Dhaka – an increasingly important destination for business travellers – and the rest of the country.
“The important thing is the infrastructure”
Dhaka will see a Mass Transit System start soon which should do much to ease the problem of congestion as will a number of flyovers being planned in the city. There are also plans for modernizing the long-distance rail links in the country, including a possible high-speed rail link between Dhaka and Chittagong, its principal port.
“Infrastructure – when we have that tourism will change,” said Ali. As part of this the Association has taken up taxation on two key parts of its work. Luxury cars and coaches which the Association believes tourists want so they can see the country
they are visiting are taxed at 400% said Ali who is leading the BIHA to lobby the government to cut it.
“They will reduce our taxes- that’s the discussion going on,” Ali told TD. The other issue like this, one with much more bite into the tourist market is a booze tax.
A Muslim country – having a holiday is next to impossible for all but the very wealthy – it levies an excise duty of (brace yourselves) 700-800% on alcohol. A small can of beer costs USD 12 before it has been served. “I am trying to negotiate with my government how to bring this price down,” said Ali adding. “It will not stay in future I am sure it will go down.”
That is just the kind of news the Association’s small but optimistic membership of 35 hotels needs as it waits to join Bangladesh’s take off. These are largely concentrated in Dhaka where there are some 2,000 three star rooms and a further 1,000 four and five star rooms, Ali reported. Occupancy is 60% in Dhaka, and 50% in the just under a thousand rooms in Chittagong, with rates being between USD150-USD180++ he added.