Kuakata tourism will explode with the opening of the Padma Bridge

Kuakata’s scenic beach is very popular with tourists, and with the opening of the Padma Bridge on June 25, the number of travelers could more than triple in no time. The photo was taken recently. Photo: Titu Das

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Kuakata’s scenic beach is very popular with tourists, and with the opening of the Padma Bridge on June 25, the number of travelers could more than triple in no time. The photo was taken recently. Photo: Titu Das

Kuakata, home to Bangladesh’s second-largest beach, is already visited by a large number of domestic and foreign tourists every year, but the number could increase sevenfold once the multipurpose Padma Bridge is officially opened, men say local business.

Currently, the main challenge of visiting Kuakata is crossing the Padma River, which is a four to five hour ferry ride on top of a nearly 14 hour journey. But once the ridge is inaugurated on June 25, it will only take a total of five or six hours to reach the destination from Dhaka.

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As such, a whole new world of possibilities has opened up when it comes to doing business in Kuakata.

“Many hotels in the area have started to upgrade their facilities and services in anticipation of the influx of tourists once the bridge opens,” said Motaleb Sharif, general secretary of the Kuakata Hotel-Motel Owners Association.

“The long trip discourages people from coming to Kuakata but the number of tourists will increase after the bridge opens as it will save travel time and money,” he added.

Sharif, who also owns Kuakata Guest House, went on to say that the area is home to around 150 residential hotels that can accommodate some 15,000 tourists.

An average of around 4,000 to 5,000 tourists visit Kuakata each day, but the number increases three to four times during winter, the peak holiday season.

People come to walk along the 18-kilometer beach, swim in the sea, and admire various sights, such as various plant and animal species in forest reserve areas like Gangamati.

Travelers can also see the traditional wooden boats made by the local Rakhine community while a temple in Mistripara, five kilometers east of Kuakata beach, houses one of the largest Buddha statues in Asia.

Additionally, tourists in Kuakata can take a boat to Fatra, which is part of the Sundarbans. Located 20 kilometers away, the area is home to a variety of wildlife such as deer and crocodiles.

Md Al Amin, Deputy General Manager of Sikdar Resort, said the number of tourists to Kuakata will naturally increase after the launch of the Padma Bridge. “We started with 12 villas and 68 rooms, but now another 20 villas and 34 rooms have been built,” he added.

Nurul Kabir, a tourist from Dhaka, said that although he always wanted to go to Kuakata, the transport system was the main obstacle for him.

“But if the Padma Bridge is launched, there will be no such obstacle because even the distance between Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar is longer,” he added.

KM Bachchu, president of the Kuakata Tour Guide Association, said the number of tourists visiting the area would be several times higher than current levels after the Padma Bridge opens.

“That’s why the scope of tour guides is being expanded. We organize their training and try to make the beach more beautiful,” he said.

“We motivate and train our staff so that tourists can enjoy Kuakata’s natural beauty without any hindrance,” Bachchu added.

Echoing the same, Zahirul Islam Miron, General Manager of Samudra Bari Resort, said that they are increasing the number of rooms and manpower available while improving existing facilities to ensure better service.

Rumman Imtiaz Tushar, president of the Kuakata Tour Operators Association, said the opening of the bridge would revolutionize the region.

“We are also preparing to launch ‘homestay’ services in nearby houses to cope with additional pressure from tourists. To this end, we have already trained about 500 homeowners in tourism services and plan to do more,” Tushar added.

Meanwhile, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, many residential hotels and motels give 50% discounts to attract tourists.

“We are offering special discounts to share the joy of launching the Padma Bridge,” said Shafiqur Rahman Chan, chairman of the Hotel-Motel Owners Association.

“Our main goal is to make traveling in Kuakata more enjoyable for tourists,” added Chan, who also owns Banani Hotel.

With construction having started in November 2014, the long-awaited Padma Bridge will finally establish rapid communication with the southern region of the country.

The bridge was built with national funding, without foreign loans or grants of any kind, while the Ministry of Finance provided credit of Tk 30,000 crore, according to an official from the Bangladesh Bridge Authority.

“We will have to repay with one percent interest in 35 years,” he said.

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