Pandemic takes the shine off port city’s luxury hotels

Luxury hotels in Chattogram has seen a 60 per cent drop in business due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to industry insiders.

Hotel owners are struggling to remain optimistic amid the potential threat of a second wave of the virus in the upcoming winter, which could once again send the economy into a tailspin.

“If this situation continues, we will have no choice other than to close down,” they said.

More than half of the rooms available at hotels in the port city remain vacant these days as most people prefer to stay at home to avoid being affected with the pathogen.

Besides, the number of business meetings, seminars and other programmes held at these venues has dropped to almost zero due to the government’s instruction to avoid public gatherings.

There are six star-rated hotels in Chattogram — the Radisson Blu Chattogram Bay View, Hotel Agrabad, The Peninsula Chittagong, Best Western Alliance, Well Park Residence and Hotel Saint Martin — that have about 540 rooms between them.

“All our activities were on hold between March and July due to the pandemic,” Shakib Nowab Ali, director for human resources and admin of Hotel Agrabad, told The Daily Star.

During the pre-Covid period, 70 to 80 per cent of the hotels were booked on any given day. But soon after the outbreak began in March, the business shrank by more than 5 per cent.

Hotel Agrabad has about 400 employees, including 270 permanent staff members.

The tourism and hospitality sector suffered the most amid the ongoing pandemic but the government is yet to provide any significant support for the ailing industry.

“Considering the current situation, we asked the commerce ministry to waive advance tax, electricity bills and other charges but we are not getting any kind of cooperation from the authorities concerned,” Ali said.

Despite having next to no revenue at the moment, Hotel Agrabad still spends more than Tk 1 crore on operational costs each month.

“If this situation continues, we will have no choice but to close the business,” he added.

Since investors, buyers, sailors and many other business entities from numerous countries travel to Chattogram to enjoy its commercial and port facilities, foreigners usually book 40 to 50 per cent of the hotels.

Now though, that number has come down to less than 10 per cent.

Ruhul Amin Babul, chairman of Best Western Alliance, told The Daily Star that on Monday, only eight of the 88 rooms available at his hotel were booked.

“We opened the hotel in February this year and had to close down at the end of March due to the pandemic,” he said.

And although the hotel was re-launched in October, guests are yet to turn up in sufficient numbers.

“We started with 189 workers but we had to cut our manpower in half due to bad business,” Babul added.

Similarly, the number of guests at Radisson Blu, the sole five-star hotel in Chattogram, The Peninsula, Well Park Residence and Hotel Saint Martin has dropped significantly.

Abdul Koium Chowdhury, executive member of the Bangladesh International Hotel Association, said the fear of Covid-19 has seriously harmed the tourism sector, leaving most hotels empty amid the pandemic.

“Most of these hotels are already concerned about paying the salaries and wages of their employees and staff,” he added. 

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