Thursday, June 27, 2019 | ePaper

Huge potential for tourism in Bangladesh

India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives implementing long-term policy

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Md. Atikur Rahman :
The tourism sector of Bangladesh has been progressing beyond multiple adversities. In the last few years, the internal tourism sector has expanded a lot as the country has made many improvements in the financial capacity. While domestic tourism is expanding, the arrival of foreign tourists cannot be seen as before. In all countries, internal tourism has developed before. It has also been done in Bangladesh.
Many countries in Asia and Africa have adopted tourism as a tool of poverty reduction. We can also engage in overall development activities for employment generation and poverty reduction. Everyone must come forward for the development of the tourism industry.
Tourists' favorite sightseeing in Bangladesh is at the top of the sea beach city Cox's Bazar. Then there are three districts Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari in Chattogram Hill Tracts. Sylhet has the third position in the list. In addition to visit to Hazrat Shahjalal and Shahporan mazars, a number of tourists visit Sylhet's tea-gardens, a symbol of natural beauty. There are more tourist attractions in Bangladesh: Sundarban, Kuakata, St. Martin, Paharpur etc. To get around, very close to Dhaka's many resorts in Gazipur has become very popular. Besides, there is a growing crowd of tourists now in places like Barisal, Bhola, Netrokona, Sherpur, Sitakunda. In the coming days, the bright prospects of setting up of lucrative tourism centers in these places are being noticed.
According to the statistics given by the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh, now 50 to 60 million people go to different places in the country every year. Five years ago, the situation was not much. Then the number was 25 to 30 million. Earlier, in 2000, the number was 3 to 5 lakh. The World Travel and Tourism Council sources said, the number of people working directly in Bangladesh's tourism sector is 1.5 million. And indirectly 23 million people are involved with it. Overall, tourism sector is creating employment of about 40-45 lakh people. After increasing the size of domestic tourism sector, its financial price is now stands around Tk 4 billion.
The main reason behind the increase in the number of domestic tourists is the rise of the country's middle class. Tourism operators' business is growing due to the growing financial capability of the people. Although there is an increase in internal tourism, there is no such facility in this sector on behalf of the people concerned. Many tourist centers in the country still have not adequate infrastructure facilities, good communication and security arrangements.
 The infrastructure of Cox's Bazar is being developed in an unplanned way. Cox's Bazar has turned into a messy city under the pressure of extra tourists; the natural beauty of St. Martin's Island is being lost. Almost the same situation has been created in tourist spots such as the Sundarbans, Sylhet, Jaflong, Tamabil, Bichanakandi. Travelling different places in Sylhet and Cox's Bazar have become dismal for many.
Although the government has taken many master plans for the development of the tourism industry, its implementation is not visible yet. However, there are already several five-star hotels, good roads and other infrastructural facilities still in Bangladesh. According to the data, the number of tourists has crossed 100 million in contrast to 725 million populations in the world. In 2050, the number of tourists will increase to about 450 million. Currently, 50 percent of the 100 million tourists are coming in Europe and 20 percent in the Asia-Pacific region.
Although India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives are planning for quick and rapid implementation of long-term policy to capture the potential market for tourism, Bangladesh government is not moving forward with a larger plan despite having significant potential, which is very sad. The authorities concerned will have to start thinking about the issues now. To attract entrepreneurs to invest in this sector, the banks should come forward with financial support. The new entrepreneurs will have to get loans without any hassle. To develop tourism industry, opportunities for research in this sector will have to be created. The government may take initiatives to build tourism centers around the large mega projects like the Padma Bridge that are now underway.
The most important thing about tourism is how to keep intact a spectacular place. Today, we see ecological destruction in the Sundarbans. About 100 years from today, the next generation will see extreme invasion on the site. To make tourist sites sustainable, local people should be involved with its development. For example, there is no arrangement for tourists in Sylhet's Bichanakandi or Paharpur in Naogaon to stay there.
Through community based tourism, local residents can arrange accommodation for tourists. As a result of the tourism of the local tourists, the tourism centers would be fascinated.  And it will have a favorable effect on the whole economy. There is no doubt that the expansion of internal tourism has added a different dimension to our economy. To make domestic tourism more attractive, public and private enterprises will have to gear up.
In this industry, foreign investment is still not expected. There are enough deficits of skilled human resources. The strong foundation of public-private partnership has not yet been established. We have to overcome these existing problems. Moreover, it is necessary to do everything for the development of sustainable tourism. To improve the tourism industry, there will be many problems to face. Environmental balance, we must also protect the biodiversity for the tourism industry.
Finally, I would say, about 4 lakh people are directly involved in the tourism industry in Bangladesh. If the implementation of the tourism satellite is possible, this number will increase further.
Employment generation and Poverty reduction is possible by reaching the level of tourism in the society. Tourism can be one of the most important means for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). So it is important to focus our attention on the development of this industry.

(Md. Atikur Rahman, Columnist & Head PRO at BUFT, atik@buft.edu.bd)

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