- Gazipur alone accommodates 76 resorts out of 200
- 15-20% of corporate visitors now shifting to other hubs
- Operators see 50%-60% visitors of their capacity
Event management firm Media Mix Communication initially planned for a three-day event at a resort in Gazipur that accommodates 76 registered resorts out of 200 in the country.
The firm, however, was forced to change the venue considering terrific traffic congestion on Dhaka-Gazipur highway.
Media Mix is one of the hundred corporate clients currently avoiding the popular resort hub and shifting to different venues in Manikganj, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Keraniganj, Narsingdi for managing easy, accessible and smooth daylong trips or mega-events by saving time. Many of the family, and couple visitors are also opting for resorts not in Gazipur.
"Earlier, we arranged multiple programmes in Gazipur resorts. This time it takes a huge time to reach there which is an extra burden in managing a mega event. Now we have different other options as several resorts have started operations in Dhaka surrounding districts over the last couple of years," said Abdullah Hasan, managing director of Media Mix Communication.
"We finally went to the Shamol Bangla Resort in Keraniganj which could be reached within one to two hours from the capital city," he added, informing that they paid around TK2.5 lakh for the event.
In this way, the resort business in Gazipur which was also hit hard by Covid-19 is losing a significant number of visitors to the traffic congestion. It is also failing to recover from the pandemic-induced fallouts.
"Construction works are going on the entire Dhaka-Gazipur highway. Traffic congestion is the most common there. Even vehicles are seen to stay stuck at Gazipur Chowrasta, Tongi, and many other spots on the road for a long time. As a result, we do not see the usual number of guests," said Abul Hossain Abir, head of sales at the Chuti Resort in Gazipur's Joydebpur.
"What momentum we expected in our businesses after lifting Covid-19-related lockdown and restrictions has not been seen," he observed, adding some of their corporate clients already shifted from their resort to other areas for the traffic congestion.
"We are losing around 15-20% corporate guests for this situation," said Aabir.
The situation went out of the frying pan into the fire when Tongi Bridge saw a concrete spalling two weeks ago, and subsequently, the authorities concerned halted Dhaka inbound and outbound vehicular movement through the bridge.
"After reopening Tongi Bridge, the traffic situation might be improved slightly," Abir believes.
Besides, the highway has been witnessing traffic congestion for a long time for the under-constructed rapid transit project on it; it brought unending suffering for the passengers– not only those bound to Gazipur but also dozens of districts to the northern region.
The government took up the country's first bus rapid transit project (BRT-3) in 2012 to ease traffic congestion on the Dhaka-Gazipur highway. The project was supposed to end in 2016 but it did not.
The 20.5-kilometre bus rapid transit has been under construction for the last nine years, narrowing the Dhaka-Gazipur highway to a great extent.
The highway is dilapidated in many parts and remains jam-packed most of the time. Almost the entire road is in poor condition, but the condition of the 3-kilometre area stretching from Tongi Bazar to Cherag Ali is the worst with numerous potholes.
Insiders from the Gazipur resort business said the road condition was mainly discouraging guests and company executives to visit the resorts.
"All the visitors told us about their sufferings on the road. We also face the hurdles," said Ismail Hossain, manager of Sarah Resort, based at Gazipur's Bhawal Rajbari. "For example, once I reached Dhaka at 12am, leaving my resort at 6pm," he added.
"However, we have nothing at hand. The government is implementing the development project for the welfare of all," he said.
The resort business people suggested that the implementing agencies of the bus rapid transit work at night too to speed up the construction work.
According to the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, the country has 200 resorts, especially in regions near the capital, including Gazipur, Narayanganj, Narsingdi, Munshiganj. Among them, Gazipur is ahead of others; it also has several non-registered resorts apart from the registered 76.
Corporate groups, professionals and couples were their main guests. Typically, resorts in Bangladesh have both daylong and night-stay packages. The cost of a day tour varies from Tk1,500-5,000 per person while the overnight stay is more expensive.
Peak season starts
A series of lockdowns to contain the coronavirus infections kept shuttered the resorts for more than four months this year.
However, the resorts now see 50-60% visitors of their capacity on average, after reopening on 19 August.
"The peak season of our business already started in November. We are getting more guests this weekend. If the traffic situation is better, we can achieve more than 80% occupancy," said Abul Hossain Abir of Chuti Resort.
Mahdi M Talukdar, operation manager at Bhawal Resort and Spa, said they were mainly offering night-stay packages to family and couple guests and their regular guests did not shift yet.
The resort industry started to grow in Bangladesh in the last decade.
According to the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, the total market size of the resort industry is around Tk3,000 crore. The sector has generated direct and indirect employment for at least five lakh people.