Cox’s Bazar, Kuakata, Saint Martin’s Island, Sundarbans, Tea gardens in Sylhet, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Paharpur, Mainamati, Mahasthangarh- enough to craft a passage of celestial scenic beauty and impeccable archaeology in a traveller’s mind. And the list doesn’t end here. It goes on with numerous other places of natural beauty and historical spots.
Tourism is one of the most dynamic, fastest growing and single largest industries in the world today. This is a sector which has turned the wheel of fortune of many countries in the world. Whereas many of our neighboring countries have successfully utilized their potentials in tourism sector and flourished their economies, in Bangladesh we see the completely opposite scenario. Here the potentials in this sector are slowly destroyed through sheer negligence and lack of proper planning and vision.
From natural, historical and archaeological perspective, Bangladesh comes up with diversified places of tourist attractions. Some notable ones are- Sonargaon, Central Shahid Minar, Mausoleum of National Leaders, Ahsan Manzil, National Museum, Bahadur Shah Park, National Memorial of Dhaka, The Lalbagh Fort, Kuakata (sunrise and sunset both can be seen from the same place here), Himchari, Moheskhali, Inani Beach at Cox’s Bazar, Khagrachari, Kaptai Lake, Buddish Temple at Rangamati, Sitakunda, Patenga and Fouzdarhat Beaches, Foy’s Lake, Cox’s Bazar (world’s longest sea beach), Sundarbans (world’s largest mangrove forest and World Heritage Site by UNESCO), Saint Martin’s Island, Jaintiapur Town, Tea Gardens of Srimongal, The Border Post of Tamabil- Jaflong, Madhabkunda, Lawachara, Madhabpur Lake, Tangore haor at Sunamgonj, Hakaluki haor at Moulovibazar, Paharpur, Mainamati, Mahasthangarh etc. Besides all these the countryside of Bangladesh has always been a treat to the eyes of the tourists from all over the world.
Tourism sector has the potential of massive contribution to our country’s economy. If this sector is properly developed, Bangladesh can earn a huge amount of foreign currency which can boost up the country’s economy. At the same time, it will provide employment opportunities to many people especially local people. Tourism can raise public support for conservation as it can provide awareness and environmental education to tourists and local people. Tourism is less environmentally damaging than other revenue generating industries based on natural resources. Furthermore, tourism can reinforce political unity of Bangladesh with many other countries through cultural and social exchange. Tourism can also create a positive image of Bangladesh in global arena which is a big advantage. This can promote foreign investment and business enterprises here.
Tourism sector got recognition as an industry in Bangladesh in 1999. But not much has changed since then which should have been. In 1998 Bangladesh and Cambodia received 171,961 and 96,000 tourists respectively. After 11 years in 2009, Bangladesh could attract only 267,000 tourists and Cambodia over 2 million tourists. This comparison indicates inconsistency in the degree of initiatives by these two countries within the same period of time. Lack of prioritization of this sector by all the governments is a major reason behind this situation. The sector do not have trained people and seriously suffer from lack of resources. Development of tourism sector for any country definitely requires vision and proper planning. But in Bangladesh the sector develops without the necessary planning and policy. Tourist spots are not properly preserved here and safety and security of tourists is still a question. In Cox’s Bazar, there are about 450 hotels and motels built in an unplanned way which is destroying the natural beauty. Moreover it is experiencing various illegal activities. Communication system in the country is also not very satisfactory. There is still no official tourist guide though The Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism has been in existence since 1975. Last but not least, the growing political instability is causing a major harm as tourists do not feel it safe to visit the country. All these have negative impact on our tourism sector as the number of arrivals by inbound tourists here is slowly decreasing over the year which is undoubtedly a major concern.
Table: Number of Arrivals by Inbound Tourists
Countries 2010 2011 2012 2013
Bangladesh 303,000 155,000 125,000 148,000
India 5,776,000 6,309,000 6,578,000 6,968,000
Sri Lanka 654,000 856,000 1,006,000 1,275,000
Singapore 9,161,000 10,390,000 11,098,000 11,899,000
Malaysia 24,577,000 24,714,000 25,033,000 25,715,000
In spite of the negative aspects and need for massive planning, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2013 Bangladesh travel and tourism sector directly supported 13,28,500 jobs that is 1.8% of total employment. The total contribution of travel and tourism to GDP was Tk460.3bn (4.4% of GDP) in that year. Globally in the same year Travel & Tourism directly supported 100,894,000 jobs (3.4% of total employment). This is expected to 126,257,000 jobs (3.7% of total employment) in 2024. The total contribution of Travel & Tourism to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry, was 8.9% of total employment during that year and it is forecasted to rise to 346,901,000 jobs in 2024 (10.2% of total jobs). It means that there is a huge potential in this sector globally. The countries’ whose tourism sector is already flourishing, will definitely utilize this potential further with more and more efficient planning and management. Bangladesh should also come up with initiatives to thrive in this industry. The total contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP is expected to rise by 6.8 per cent per annum to Tk. 819.4bn in Bangladesh, by 2023. But without necessary planning, these statistics will just remain in pen and paper.
The above statistics show that proper planning is prerequisite for this sector. First of all Infrastructure development and preservation of tourist spots are of utmost necessity. Then a proper policy guideline is also needed to be formed by the government. Also unplanned commercial development has to be stopped. Safety of tourists is a major concern. The law enforcing agencies must be vigilant in this regard so that tourists are not harassed, cheated or face any difficulties during their stay in Bangladesh. There should also be access for tourists to file complaint and get solution in case of any hassle faced by them. Proper sanitation facilities are also required in tourist spots for convenience. These facilities must be planned keeping in mind the need for tourists of all age, sex etc. e.g. separate changing room facilities in sea-beaches for both women and men.
Branding of our tourism is also required. ‘Beautiful Bangladesh’ campaign has to be more and more strengthened. The way Malaysia has promoted their tourism through ‘Malaysia- Truly Asia’ or India through ‘Incredible India’ is a lesson to be learnt by us. India also promotes their regional tourism efficiently. The Ministry of Tourism of India promotes the country’s various tourism products through its several campaigns under the ‘Incredible India’ brand- both for international and domestic markets. The ministry has also set up a Hospitality Development and Promotion Board, which will monitor and facilitate hotel project approvals. The allocation for Ministry of Tourism in the Union Budget 2013-14 was increased by INR 876.6 million (USD 14.13 million) to INR 12,976.6 million (USD 209.30 million).
In 2013 the Malaysian government announced a three-year tax exemption incentive for tourism and travel agents who provide services and handle up to 750 foreign tourists or 1,500 domestic tourists. The Malaysian government always focuses on enhancing the country’s position as a leading tourist destination and come up with vision, target and plan to attract tourists and provide them a good experience there. As a result the country earned recognition from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as the ninth most visited country in the world from 2009 to 2011, and ranked 14th in terms of revenue earned from the tourism sector. These prove that an integrated approach is necessary to boost this sector and they have done that. These are learning for us.
Again Bangladesh needs trained people in this sector as guides, in hotels etc. Training should include but not limited to communication skills, time management skills, behavioral skills, team working ability, latest cuisines in restaurants, knowledge on our culture, heritage, ability to understand tourist requirements, hygiene etc. More hotel management and hospitality training institutes have to be introduced in the country. As Bangladesh possesses natural beauty, eco-tourism should also be promoted. And undoubtedly sufficient resource in this sector and political stability in the country must be ensured if we want to flourish this sector in Bangladesh.
There are definite prospects in tourism sector in Bangladesh. But prospects without proper initiatives are of no use. We have some brilliant examples of developing tourism sector in our neighboring countries. We can learn from them. And if do so, Bangladesh will see a new horizon and there should be no doubt in that.
– Paromita Nakshi, Dhaka Insider