Launch owners consider launch-based tourism to revive faltering business in Bangladesh

 Monday, March 27, 2023 


Launch owners are contemplating providing launch-based tourism on southern routes in an effort to revitalise their faltering businesses in Bangladesh, The Business Standard reported.

They want to alter their existing vessels and convert them into floating entertainment hubs, akin to cruise ships, with amenities such as kids’ zones, restaurants, theatres, live music, and other amusements.

The launch owners hope that by providing a novel and exciting form of transportation, they would be able to revitalise the business.

“The new plan aims to promote the country’s waterways as tourist destinations, with transforming launches as a unique and attractive way to explore the natural beauty of the country. This will help attract tourists from home and abroad, including those interested in sightseeing,” Shahidul Islam Bhuiyan, general secretary of the Launch Owners Association, said to The Business Standard.

“If the launch-based tourism proposal is successful, it could not only save the launch business but also create new job opportunities, and boost the country’s tourism industry,” he continued.

Launch owners are asking government assistance in carrying out their proposal, citing their inability to invest more in upgrading current vessels to make them more appealing to visitors.

Md Badiuzzaman Badal, senior vice president of Bangladesh Inland Waterways Passenger Carrier Association, said, “We are keen to start this service to make water transport more appealing. However, owners have no ability to make fresh investments as they have been incurring losses for a long time.”

“There are only 20-30 existing giant vessels which can be converted into cruise ships. Owners have already spent Tk25-35 crore to build these carriers, and an additional Tk5-10 crore will be required to convert them into cruise ships,” he added.

“Banks might not provide loans to us since the water transport business has been identified as a vulnerable industry. Therefore, we are seeking financial support from the government to keep the industry afloat, which has long been a vital part of Bangladesh’s transportation infrastructure, providing an affordable and reliable means of transport,” said Badiuzzaman.

He further stated that the collapse of the launch business will have an impact not only on launch owners but also on the larger economy, including local populations who rely on the sector for a living.

He further stated that approximately 50 big and medium-sized launches operate everyday from Dhaka to the country’s southern area, with each launch employing 40-60 people.

However, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, State Minister for Shipping, informed The Business Standard that the launch owners had not yet approached the government over the problem.

“However, the government is prepared to offer any necessary support to them. We do not wish for any business to shut down,” he said.

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