InterContinental back in new look -The Asian Age

The country's first five-star standard hotel is coming back to operation with new look as InterContinental Dhaka. After four years of massive renovations, the hotel is ready for inauguration. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to open it tomorrow. 

Beginning the journey in 1966 as InterContinental, the iconic hotel was later run as Sheraton and Ruposhi Bangla. "We've refurbished each and everything except the walls and floors of the hotel," said Md Mohibul Haque, chairman of the Bangladesh Services Ltd (BSL), the owning company of the hotel, while talking to The Asian Age yesterday. 

The refurbishment was supposed to be completed by 2015 but it took two and a half  years more. Explaining the reasons, Mohibul, also acting Secretary to the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry, said, "It took a longer time because of changes in plans after the previous structure was broken down."

"You will see everything of this hotel has been changed though the design of the building looks almost the same from outside," he said and partly blamed some individuals and organizations involved with the makeover process for the delay. "They did not want the inauguration of the hotel during the tenure of the current government," he added.

The BSL chairman said a manager of the InterContinental was always on duty to oversee the renovation on behalf of the company. The delay has also pushed up the costs. Tk 344 crore was first estimated in 2014, but the refurbishment cost finally soared to Tk 550 crore.

The state-run BSL, which holds the 99.68 percent stakes of the hotel, is providing the finance with its own funds and bank loans, said Mohibul adding the InterContinental will get just 9 percent of the neat profits as the operator of the hotel.

About changes in the hotel, Mohibul said there are now 46 less rooms while the remaining 226 have had their size enlarged. Of them, 201 are premium or deluxe rooms, 10 deluxe suites, five superior suites, five diplomatic suites and five presidential suites. In addition, two ballrooms and seven meeting rooms have more than 21,000 square feet for conferences and exhibitions.

"The room size of the hotel has been extended to 40 square meters from 37," said Haque, adding now one ballroom can accommodate 1,000 people, double the previous capacity. He said a temperature-controlled swimming pool has been set up inside the building. Earlier, it was outside the hotel building.

In February 2012, BSL signed a 30-year deal with InterContinental Hotels Group, paving the way for the British multinational hospitality company to undertake the hotel's management. There is an option for renewing the agreement two more times, each for five-year tenure. The 30-year countdown has started on the day the deal was signed, said the BSL chairman.

InterContinental had run the iconic hotel from 1966 to 1983 before Sheraton took over. After Sheraton left in April 30, 2011, BSL ran it as Ruposhi Bangla Hotel from May 2011 till its closure for refurbishment in September 2014.

Sources also said although the hotel was closed for renovation, administrative expenses of the company continued for the last four years. As a result, the company has incurred a loss of around Tk 133 crore during the period of time.
BSL said the company was in profit before the reform work. The company is hopeful of returning to profit after reducing the loss rapidly following its launching.