This week we turn to one of those few tourist attractions that Bangladesh can actually be proud of. This place is certainly worthy of a review, considering that the number in question is pitifully low. It is needless to give a flowery introduction, because from the above mentioned, Cox's Bazar has already crossed your minds.
Although having always been the biggest and best-preferred tourist resort of Bangladesh, until about 15 years ago, a thin crowd of foreigners dominated Cox's Bazar's tourism. However, times and trends have changed and now foreign tourists are a difficult sight to come by for weeks, as they have been overtaken by local holiday- makers. But the crowd of local tourists can be overwhelming during the peak season in winter and during long vacations like the two Eid holidays.
A few years back, the crowds reached such large numbers that turists often could not find any hotel rooms for days. Now however, a proud change in scenario can be boasted.
While the beach town still lacks international-standard tourist amenities and recreational facilities, Cox's Bazar surely offers the widest range of accommodation facilities in the country. Right now, the town has more than 115 residential hotels and rest houses, including the beautiful beach side Hotel Seagull and the magnificent Sea Palace hotels. At any given time, this means the town can accommodate no less than 20000 tourists. By Bangladeshi tourism standards- that is immense.
Visiting Cox's Bazar during the rainy season is an off-beat affair. But it can be rewarding if you are interested in a nice and quiet time at the beach. Right now, the beach is clean. The waves of the Bay of Bengal are stronger. The weather can be very hot and sultry at times, or very humid or rainy during others. The weather is definitely not as enjoyable as that of the winter, but you have to forgo some of those benefits if you want a nice and quiet vacation at the beach town.
Two hotels will surely draw your attention, if you are ready to spend like a tourist. The well-known Hotel Seagull has undergone a major change and is claiming to have become a five-star hotel with 188 rooms, along with a superb garden and excellent exterior. Since I did not get to stay there this time round, I will continue my review with the other hotel-Hotel Sea Palace.
Hotel Sea Palace clearly boasts being the biggest hotel in Bangladesh in terms of size. Built by the local Western Group for an investment of around Tk 100 crore, the two complexes of accommodation and amenities take up half of the six-acre land of the hotel. Of the two complexes, the Western Plaza was opened to the public in December 2003 and it commands a three star standard. The other is the five star standard Crown Plaza, launched in October 2004.
During the off-season, like all other hotels in the beach town, Hotel Sea Palace also offers special discounts.
The Crown Plaza houses 100 air conditioned spacious rooms with four special suites and the Western Plaza 153 rooms, 75 of them with air conditioners, and four semi-suites. In addition, the hotel has a boardroom for 120 people and a ballroom with a 1000 capacity, restaurants and other amenities. The hotel is currently developing its sports facilities, garden and other arrangements.
At the Western Plaza the lowest room tariff for a non-AC deluxe room is Tk 1200 and for an AC room Tk 1850. At the Crown Plaza, the lowest room tariff is Tk 2500, super deluxe room with twin bed Tk 4000, two types of Crown regular suite Tk 5000 and Tk 6000, the honeymoon suite Tk 15000, the royal suite Tk 20000 and the presidential suite Tk 60,000. "The presidential suite is 3000 square feet. It has a gym, recreational centre, five large rooms with individual toilets and other facilities," says Enam Ullah, General Manager of the hotel. "Some tourists who visit Cox's Bazar with their families and relatives or lots of people rent this suite," he pointed out.
"There have been a lot of changes in the tourist scenario in the last five years," Enam mentions. "The present trend is that people are increasingly becoming holiday-oriented. Whenever there is a two day vacation, people from Dhaka tend to make a short visit to Cox's Bazar or other easily accessible tourist spots. We get tourists all year round- though the number drastically falls down during the off-season." Because of the tourism boom, Cox's Bazar is one of the busiest destinations of inter-district bus services, making it easy for tourists of all kinds to go there. You can avail the most luxurious and spacious bus service in the country along this route which is cost effective though a bit time consuming.
"During the eid holidays and some long weekends in favourable season, all the hotels in the town get full booking," he adds. The steady growth of tourists has however become stagnant in the last two years due to the sudden boom of hotels in the last five years. There are still some major hotel projects underway. "Unless initiatives are taken to make tourism more entertaining, Cox's Bazar's tourism will become stagnant. The beach needs to be developed. There should be a walkway and toilets. There is a host of things that can be done here," Enam informed. He noted that foreign tourists avoid Cox's Bazar because of lack of recreational facilities like bars, nightclubs, water sports and a lack of quality communication facilities to visit the nearby tourist spots.
By Sharier Khan