Dhaka : Unique Hotels and Resorts PLC pioneered the private sector hotel industry in the country with the launch of the first privately owned hospitality property The Westin Dhaka in the capital's Gulshan area decades ago. Now, the hospitality giant has two more star properties-Sheraton Dhaka and Hansa Premium Residence-under its inventory. Furthermore, the group will be adding another feather in its cap with the launch of the country's first and only seven-star hotel-St Regis-by 2025.
Shakawath Hossain, CEO of Unique Hotels and Resorts PLC, said this while talking to The Bangladesh Monitor at his office in the capital.
St Regis Hotels and Resorts is an American multinational luxury hotel chain, owned and managed by Marriott International. The much anticipated seven-star hotel will be located beside The Westin Dhaka in Gulshan.
Additionally, by 2025, the group will also be launching two more new foreign hotel chain brands-Taj and Vivanta-in the country.
The launch of these hotels will mark a new milestone for the group which is expansion of operations outside the capital to other promising tourist destinations of the country for the first time.
"We will be opening the Taj Hotel in the country's promising new tourist destination Kuakata," mentioned the CEO of the group.
On the other hand, the most popular tourist site of the country-Cox's Bazar-will not be ignored either, as the group will also be launching another Westin hotel in the scenic beach destination.
"Apart from these, we will also be establishing a 45-storied Taj Wellington Park service apartments in the capital's Tejgaon area overlooking the beautiful Hatirjheel," added Shakawath.
Asked about whether the increasing capacity will exceed the industry's demand, Shakawath replied, the growth of the country's economy and FDI as well as the increasing number of development projects bring the demand of more quality accommodation facilities to serve the rising number of incoming skilled foreign human resource to Bangladesh.
He further expressed, under the leadership of the group's Managing Director and Founder Mohd Noor Ali-the private sector hospitality industry veteran-Unique Hotels and Resorts has paved the way for other privately owned hotels and foreign brands to open properties in the country.
Shakawath Hossain, CEO of Unique Hotels and Resorts PLC
This not only fueled the hospitality industry's growth but also helps to bring foreign investment from global companies and currency from international travellers into the country, claimed Shakawath.
However, the CEO sighed, the hospitality industry is not recognised as a foreign currency earner. Hence, it does not enjoy any benefit or incentive, available for other foreign currency earning industries of the country.
"On top of it, we are being burdened with an intolerable tax structure that makes it difficult for hotels to sustain," claimed Shakawath, adding, "This, in turn, affects the end users-customers-as the excessively high taxes imposed on the hotels are forcing the prices to go up, to an extent, that it is becoming quite unreasonable for the guests," regretted Shakawath.
For instance, he explained, certain beverages have up to 595 per cent Advance Income Tax imposed during import. Such staggeringly high tax rates force the hotel to up their sale price which ultimately discourages the consumers.
As a solution to this issue, the government must revise the tax structure for hotels while properties decrease import dependency, said Shakawath.
The latter also requires higher quality food production in the country so that hotels can source food items locally instead of importing from abroad, urged the CEO.
Another blow to the hoteliers, Shakawath mentioned, was the government's recent move to stop offering tax rebate for hotels while they are under construction.
As the group is expanding its portfolio with new hotels, it requires government support. With it, not only the group will benefit but also the country, he also stressed.
"The lifting of the tax rebate for under-construction hotels is also discouraging new entrepreneurs to step foot in the hospitality industry," claimed the CEO.
It may be mentioned here that hospitality is a crucial segment of the tourism industry as accommodation is a key part of any travel.
Hence, developing or supporting the hospitality industry in Bangladesh is a must for the growth of the country's inbound tourism which is currently lagging behind.
"The government is undertaking many new development projects, like the much awaited masterplan, to help the country's tourism sector grow. Therefore, supporting the hotels in their endeavours should also be a priority to make the country's tourism sector prosper," concluded Shakawath.