The hoteliers are having a big problem with duty on liquor - 500 to 600 per cent duty. When a foreigner comes in, it is a big problem for them. We can buy liquor locally but it is restricted to Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, why not from other duty free shops. There are no proper statistics about the number of rooms we have in the country and no study on how much we would need in the future. These must be planned accordingly.
There are no short, medium or long-term plans about the human resources needed in this sector. We never planed as perhaps we never thought it would flourish so quickly. Shall we have to bring manpower from outside? providing standard service we can surely earn foreign currency. But those coming out of NHTTI and some private institutes are not enough. So the hotel owners are training their own personnel. Perhaps, we can set up an institution on the lines of BGMEA's institute having affiliation with a university. Besides meeting the country's requirements, we could send them abroad.
Besides Dhaka, Cox's Bazar, hotels and resorts are now being set up across the country, but there is need for regular supervision and monitoring of their quality and standards. We (those who are setting up hotels and resorts) are not receiving much help. We are facing problems at every step. He called for liquor licence as his resort is located near an Export Processing Zone where many foreigners work. He also called for government help in training up human resources.
Destinations need to be identified and developed. There is acute shortage of human resources but trained people go abroad. Infrastructure development is not tourism friendly. Local people have to be involved, local administration, specially local police station, need to be given orientation, to be destination and tourism friendly. There should be policy support for tourism and regulatory body for hotels and resorts. There, safety and security have to be ensured and there should be adequate entertainment options. Bureaucratic hurdles have to be removed and VAT and tax amount brought down.
There should be proper standardisation. Star ratings of hotels should be done by Bangladesh Parjatan Corpor-ation. Chain hotels like us are checked regularly whether we are complying with standards.
Statistics of available rooms as well as visitors entering the country needs to be made available. These are neither being made available nor being updated for quite a few years. So it makes it hard to understand where the business is coming from and decide where your focus should be in order to position your business and to cater to the needs of the clients. We do have enough business locally if handled correctly. There should be one-stop shop or window at the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism for clearances as well as in assisting owners, developers and hoteliers so that there is a fast track in getting things done. There must be someone to facilitate or speed up the process.
There should be government instructions so that developments in Cox's Bazar are good to look at. There should be duty free and bank loans facilities on easy terms to help set up hotels. There are VAT rebates in the garment sector. It should be extended to tourism sector also. Import of duty free vehicles, based on the status of investment and project, should be allowed.
We must develop sustainable domestic tourism. To allure international tourists we must shift our focus on eco-tourism, indigenous culture like riverine Bangladesh and village resorts. We should have some national policy about star rating. A comprehensive audit must be in place. We have set up Unique Professional Development Academy located in UTC building in Cox's Bazar. If there is a national curriculum, we can follow it. There is technical lacking at Bangladesh Technical Education Board. We are willing to help them develop their curriculum. Several universities have hospitality courses in their curriculum - they are mainly managerial courses. But this sector is more hands-on than managerial, starting from rank and file positions. So there needs to be focus on practical training as well.
We must receive guests at airports, train stations and bus stoppages just the way we receive guests at our homes. We should decorate the empty spaces at our airports, clean up our train stations and bus stoppages so that minds of people are lifted when they reach there. We can train up manpower for tourism and hospitality sector at upazila level. We can hold festivals to highlight our seasonal fruits before foreigners, as we did with mango for our long-staying guests. With so many resources available in the country why should not tourism develop?
We have held meetings with Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB), Special Branch (SB) of Police, Immigration, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism and Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) on statistics. It is being collected by Immigration and kept with SB. I am hopeful of getting statistics and this will help us in our future planning. We are going to establish Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), with the help of BBS within a couple of months.
Last month we invited 15 internationally acclaimed travel writers and tour operators - from Japan, Germany and Spain. They have a few observations - they observed that our accommodation, specially resorts and hotels, are not up to international level. They suggested more focus on needs based tourism. Pahela Boishakh as well as Eid ul Fitr and Durga Puja could be some of the grand events of the country. We have worked on destination development and we'll work to promote them. Foreign missions are also being involved. A film on 'Beautiful Bangladesh" won an award at Zagreb Film Festival.
We investors feel we can take the country forward through tourism, if we can promote the country, specially Cox's Bazar. For this we'll have to work together. The government should think how it can take NHTTI of BPC still further. The tourists will come if the infrastructure is ready. The satellite channels could help by telecasting different beautiful spots of the country, then the message will reach the target.
We need to go to the grassroots. Bangladesh has a diverse culture, heartwarming and hardworking people. We need to think about solutions and take active steps. We need to be proud of Bangladesh's uniqueness. Facts are necessary - for marketing, advertising and for the Ministry of Finance - to allocate budget.
We need to set out a target plan - a tourism Master Plan. We must think how many tourists we need per year. There should be plan for a year, for five years and for 20 years, as to what our share of the world tourism pie should be and how Bangladesh can go among the Top Ten tourist receiving countries utilising Cox's Bazar, Sundarban, Mahastangarh, tea gardens and other attractions. How do we want to position ourselves? We have to pay 600 per cent Customs tax on wine. Then there is 37.5 per cent VAT and service tax. The government should think about it. If we give priority to tourism, we'll not have to think of other industries or send manpower abroad. This sector does not need much investment. Road, rail and connectivity should be improved. If there is an international airport at Cox's Bazar, there will be many charter flights arriving. Then the hotel owners will be able to get a better deal on their rooms. We face a lot of hassles from the Department of Narcotics. Prompt electricity connections should be available for hotels. We should be allowed to buy from local duty free shops or from local warehouses with local L/C as our guests are foreigners. As we earn foreign exchange we should be allowed liquor import facilities. When we take up projects it gets stuck in bureaucratic red tape. There should be a policy as to what and how many documents are to be submitted. If the documents are in order, the permission from the ministry must not take more than 10 or 15 days. In this age of Internet we want to work with e-mails. We do not want to run behind files, secretaries or ministers.
1.Training up of human resources for local need as well as export
2.System for star rating and standardisation of properties
3.Heightened monitoring by the government
4.Separate laws for resorts
5.Development of destinations
6.Quick availability of statistics
7.One-stop window at MOCAT
8.Improvement of infrastructure and air, road and rail connectivity
9.Beautification of airports, train stations and bus stoppages
10.Introduction of Tourism Satellite Account
11.Maintaining, highlighting uniqueness of the country
12.Fixing of tourist target
13.Positioning of the country
14.Reduction of Customs duties, VAT on liquor
15.Promotion of local entertainment, handicraft
16.Easing of visa, waiver of visa among SAARC countries
17.Preventing misuse of sites