After reopening amid the pandemic, resorts on the outskirts of the capital are offering 40%-50% discounts to their guests, and yet the occupancy rate remains 35%-40% compared to pre-pandemic times, hinting at a slow recovery for the Tk3,000 crore market.
"Current business is kind of better than nothing," said Mehedi Hasan, assistant manager of Nokkhottrobari resort in Gazipur.
A series of lockdowns to contain the runaway coronavirus infections shuttered the resorts for more than four months this year. They were reopened on 19 August at half-capacity.
According to the Tourism Resort Industries Association of Bangladesh (Triab), the tourist retreats had been turning around until mid-March this year, shaking off last year's virus-led closure. Mid-March business logged 60%-70% guest occupancy – almost like pre-pandemic times.
According to Nokkhottrobari's Mehedi Hasan, it is mostly couples who are availing night packages now, while the weekend rush has gradually been gaining momentum.
At Nokkhottrobari, one of the oldest resorts in Gazipur, the current discount rate costs a couple Tk8,500 for a per night stay, plus food. The resort can accommodate around 90 guests at night and a maximum of 400 guests on a day package.
Mehedi Hasan said corporate groups who prefer daylong stays and amusements are yet to come in droves. "Only a few corporate customers have contacted us with booking plans in September," he noted.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Bangladesh has reported that hotels and resorts incurred losses to the tune of at least Tk3,000 crore last year owing to virus-led closures. However, resort owners are yet to come up with estimates of the losses they incurred in four months this year.
Triab President Khabir Uddin Ahmed said, though, that this year's losses cannot be recovered anytime soon if the hotels and resorts have to operate at half-capacity.
The Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation says there are over 200 resorts in the country. Of them, Gazipur has the highest number, 76 in all, of registered and non-registered resorts in the district, according to the district administration.
Chhuti Resort Gazipur, another holiday destination in the district, also has been experiencing a low guest turnout after the reopening. Its occupancy hovers around 35% while the resort registers more guests on weekends.
With 40 cottages, Arunima Resort Golf Club in Khulna's Narail district is witnessing around 30% guest occupancy at 25%-30% discounts.
Khabir Uddin Ahmed, chairman of the resort and also Triab president, said some resort owners are availing loans from the government-announced Tk1,000 crore stimulus package to salvage the tourism sector from the pandemic fallout.
"Banks initially had been avoiding us. But some of us managed to get approval for loans as operating costs," he noted.
Cox's Bazar resorts doing better
Resorts in the popular tourist hub Cox's Bazar are doing comparatively better, reporting around 50% occupancy on average.
At Cox's Bazar's Inani beach, Royal Tulip Sea Pearl Beach Resort & Spa now has 50% of guests compared to business in regular times.
The five-star category resort offers 493 luxuriously decorated rooms and suites with a panoramic view of the Bay of Bengal and hills.
The resort industry started to grow in Bangladesh in the last decade. Resort owners said corporate groups, professionals and couples are their main guests.
According to the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, the total market size of the industry is around Tk3,000 crore. However, according to Triab, the industry has around Tk20,000 crore in investments, including land and infrastructure.
The sector has generated direct and indirect employment for at least five lakh people.