Le Méridien Dhaka began its journey a little over four years ago but the upscale hotel has already been able to win the hearts of both travellers and locals alike.
“It has been a very, very successful four years -- the hotel has gone from strength to strength,” said Constantinos S Gavriel, general manager of the upscale hotel, in an interview with The Daily Star recently.
And one of the reasons being its location, which, at Nikunja 2, is a stone’s throw away from the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and the diplomatic enclave, where most of the foreign companies are based at.
It is also a safe distance from Ashulia, Savar and Gazipur, where Bangladesh’s famed garment industry is based.
So, it was no surprise to learn that the property’s occupancy rate in 2019 was more than 75 percent.
Owned by Dhaka-based Best Holdings, Le Méridien Dhaka has 304 rooms, including 25 suites; six restaurants catering Turkish, Iranian, Italian, subcontinental, English and global cuisines; lobby lounge; spa; banquet halls and an infinity pool overlooking Dhaka city.
In short, it is ideal for both business and leisure, but corporate guests are its core patrons.
“We have a lot of corporate accounts. Obviously, the government sector is a big sector here, but we have people from fast-moving consumer goods, IT and banking sectors,” said Gavriel, who has 24 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
The hotel -- which is part of Marriott International, the third largest hotel chain in the world -- also gets steady business from a host of major airlines, whose crew are put up at the property whenever they fly into Dhaka.
Foreigners, particularly Indian nationals, have been the hotel’s main guests in the last four years.
“But we are seeing an increase of Chinese travellers along with British, German and American ones,” said Gavriel, who started his career at the Kensington Hilton in London.
Pure tourists account for less than one percent of the guests at the hotel, but the British national thinks Bangladesh’s tourism sector would take off in the next five to 10 years.
“This is an untapped market and very few people have been to Bangladesh,” he said, adding that Bangladesh is now at the stage of where Vietnam and Thailand were 30 years ago.
Gavriel, who was the general manager of The Renaissance Aktau Hotel in Kazakhstan before moving to Dhaka in 2017, believes that Bangladesh will be a beneficiary of the growing interest in South Asia for tourism purpose.
“People are always looking for new experiences and new destinations and obviously the market is in South Asia. Bangladesh will be one of the upcoming destinations.”
But for the development of the tourism sector, infrastructure focusing on tourism is needed, said Gavriel, who was previously posted in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Russia.
Best Holdings though is definitively sanguine about the outlook of Bangladesh’s hospitality sector. So much that it has signed two new contracts with Marriott International to set up a business hotel and resort in Bangladesh.
The resort, which will be under The Luxury Collection brand, would be named The Muslin. It would be situated in Bhaluka, an upazila in Mymensingh.
The Luxury Collection is a collection of hotels and resorts that are unique and cherished expressions of their locations and portals to the destination’s indigenous charms and treasures, according to Marriott.
The hotel would be a Courtyard by Marriott, which is a mid-priced brand in the American hospitality company’s expansive portfolio designed for business travellers, in Mawna.
Mawna is in the Sreepur upazila of Gazipur, where a cluster of garment factories can be found.
Both the properties would have more than 200 rooms and are expected to open their doors to guests within the next two years.
As for Le Méridien, it is looking to build on the success of the last four years.
“We are anticipating some growth as there is a lot of infrastructure projects going on and the airport extension project will start next year, which will be a good advantage for us.”
Billions of dollars are being spent for the expansion of the airport and setting up the Elevated Expressway and the Metro Rail, all with the view to upgrading the city’s transport network.
“For us, it would be beneficial because people will be coming to the city whether as project managers or teams of engineers or architects working on the new projects.”
Gavriel, who has held various positions within Marriott since 2011, feels the supply side for food and beverage makes running a world-class luxury hotel in Bangladesh quite the trial.
Getting quality produce and seafood and drinks is always a challenge in Bangladesh.
Gavriel, who holds a bachelor’s degree in international hotel management from the University of North London, suggested young professionals in the hospitality sector to work hard, keep learning, be prepared always and dream big.
“Without a big dream, the hotel industry will not thrive and it is a global industry,” he said, adding that someone working at the hotel can easily go outside of the country and work in India, Thailand, Sydney or any city in the world.
But the hotel industry in Bangladesh is still in its infancy. More hotels need to be built and the country needs more luxury hotels.
The increase in flights by airlines in recent times points to the rise of business travel to Bangladesh, he said.
Businesses and the growth of the country will support the industry and open new avenues for growth.
“We have a lot of faith and trust and we believe that there are huge opportunities for hotel investors in Bangladesh.”