Mohammad Zahirul Islam is known in the trade as Dalton Zahir, the head of Sales and Marketing of BRAC Services Ltd (BSL). BSL includes BRAC Centre Inn Mohakhali, BRAC CDM Rajendrapur, BRAC CDM Savar, and the Artisan boutique hotel Uttara. He has 17 years of experience in hospitality, tourism, public relations, media and communications, branding, sales, marketing and business operations. He also worked for the Rose View Hotel Sylhet, Grand Sultan Tea Resort and Golf Sylhet, Ocean Paradise Hotel and Resort Cox’s Bazar, Lakeshore Hotel Gulshan, Motorola Mobile, Apple Computer, Philips Mobile and Fujifilm Digital Camera Distribution in Bangladesh office (Jel Corp HQ in Singapore). A tete-a-tete with Zahirul Islam draws us a picture of what to expect next from BSL.
BRAC Services Ltd is a leading hospitality management company in Bangladesh, with four properties—two located within Dhaka city, one in Savar and one in Gazipur. Collectively, these four properties offer 372 guest rooms. BSL has an excellent track record for exceptional services and has an increasing contribution to the tourism industry of Bangladesh. Hotel accommodations, restaurants, conference centres, banquet halls, health clubs are some of the services we offer.
Who are your target guests and what has been the feedback so far?
BRAC is the name of a world class brand and it has incredible reputation worldwide. We are working on branding for the next few months. So far the responses from the guests have been overwhelming. They are very happy.
Truly speaking, our primary target are the corporate clients. We strongly believe we can create a competitive position in the hotel and hospitality industry within a very short time.
Are the services likely to improve B2B tourism?
Before commenting on B2B, I would like to share that UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) advised us to promote domestic tourism. If two percent of the country’s total population travel during the tourist season, it would help increase business of the hospitality industry in more than one way. When local visitors travel more within the country, they spend more here. If they travel abroad, the earnings of the country’s hospitality industry reduce. We have to inspire more local tourists to visit different tourist’ sites in the country. There is a lack of investment to attract foreign tourists to the country. Our investment plans must be sustainable. We have to design plans to promote tourism not only during holidays but also on other days of the week.
Initiatives should be taken to encourage travellers write more travel stories. Travellers who write from their experience should be rewarded
How does our hospitality industry attract and welcome foreign guests?
Unfortunately, there is no tourism calendar, no tourism related publications, and no proper guideline in the country. Even the websites of the government tourism organisations do not have information about infrastructure like hotels and motels. The private hotel owners are disseminating information by their own efforts. If these could be done at national levels, it would attract more foreign tourists and benefit the industry a lot. To let more people know about tourism sector, the government should arrange one-to-one meeting among industry stakeholders to implement tourism plans.
How can the tourist industry be promoted?
At present, there is no authority who works to promote the tourism industry. There are various forums in the country who are working for development of tourism sector.
Initiatives should be taken to encourage travellers write more travel stories. Travellers who write from their experience should be rewarded. Positive write-ups should be published in the international field. A dedicated media should be established that will encourage to write travel stories and disseminate globally.
In the present era of social media, we have to keep writing more and more about tourism sector. We have to avoid highlighting negative news. Maybe you will find roads are broken. Maybe infrastructures are inadequate but we have natural beauty which is hard to find in any other part of the world.
Local visitors travel more within the country, they spend more here
Just a few days ago, the government announced steps to make more people skilled for the hospitality sector. How do you describe this?
Government initiatives are always welcome. But what I think, the government at first has to prepare is a list of skilled and expert people who are working in this sector and recognise them for their dedication for the industry through their lives. There are lots of people who are well known, even in the international arena. We have to honour those people. They are the real assets and can show the pathways for actual development of the industry.
There is another tourist conference ahead that will be held in Bangladesh. How do you think that will help the industry?
First of all, the guests around the world who will come here have to be informed about our tourism sector. A good number of foreign journalists will also come. The country’s tourism industry will be promoted through the news coverage made by them.