Prospect of Tourism Industry in Bangladesh -Sumaiya Mim

Cover Story

All over the world, Tourism industry is well known as one of the major economic Avenues. It also has been considered as a key tool of socio-economic development in the contemporary world. In many countries of the world, Tourism plays a pivotal role in economic development like France, Egypt, Turkey, Dubai, Greece, Spain, Italy are among them. In addition, the industry has developed widely in the island nation of Mauritius, Bahamas, Fiji, Maldives, Indonesia & Caribbean regions. By capitalizing on tourism, many small economies have created opportunities for foreign currency extraction and employment generation. Even neighboring India is looking to tap into the potentials of tourism.
For ages, Bangladesh is known as a dream country surrounded by evergreens to foreign tourists. The famous Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang visited Bangladesh in the 7th century and explained its beauty as a ‘sleeping beauty exposed from mist and water’. As a center of civilization, the country has many natural resources to attract tourists. In the 14th century, the world-famous traveler Ibn Battuta visited Bangladesh and was completely spellbound. On his way from Sonargaon to Sylhet by boat, he praised the immense beauty of both sides of the river.
Although small in size, Bangladesh is well known across the world for its warm hospitality and diverse cultures. Unparalleled natural beauty, ethnic diversity, fascinating lifestyle, centuries old ancient heritages, archaeological sites, rich history and tradition have thus made Bangladesh an attractive tourist destination to many.
As a queen of forms, the country has the world’s longest natural beach, Cox’s Bazar, a world heritage site declared by UNESCO in 1997, the world’s single largest biodiverse mangrove forest, Sundarbans, the place to watch sunrise and sunset from the same beach, the mermaid Kuakata, two leaves of a bud, the green pastures of Sylhet, the clear waters of Lalakhal, the breathtaking beauty of Jaflong and Bichnakandi flowing in the stream of stone water, Panthumai waterfall coming down through the mountains, Mighty Ratargul Swamp Forest, the diverse culture and customs of the tribals, the rich high green forests surrounded by Chittagong region, the rich Archaeological monuments of the northern part of the country attract the tourists across the world.
Currently, the number of tourists worldwide is around 90 crores. According to tourism experts, about 73 percent of this large number of tourists will travel to Asian countries. The World Tourism Organization forecasts that about 29.7 million people will be employed in this industry by 2030, which will contribute 10.5 percent to the global economy. If Bangladesh can capture this huge market, then its economy will change dramatically by the hand of tourism. Compared to the rest of the world, Bangladesh is a bit behind in this industry. This sector currently contributes only 3 percent to the GDP of Bangladesh.
Moreover, although accurate data is not available, it is estimated that around 5 lakh foreign tourists traveled to Bangladesh last year. In the same year, about 4 crore domestic tourists traveled all over Bangladesh. This is certainly true that the development of tourism industry will not only earn foreign exchange, but will play an important role in bringing Bangladesh to the court of the world.
If the tourism industry can be taken forward in the coming days, it will play a significant role in the overall economy of the country and also create new job opportunities. Notwithstanding, the opportunity to earn a huge amount of foreign currency will add to the national economy. Currently, out of 7 billion people in the world, nearly 140 million people move from one country to another (inbound tourists). By 2050, when the world’s population reaches 9.5 billion, the number of annual inbound tourists is expected to be half of the total population, which is 4.5 billion annually. And half of it will come in the Asia-Pacific region. Attracting them to our natural landscape will be a huge plus point for us.
But unfortunately, despite the potential of developing the tourism industry in Bangladesh, even after 45 years of independence, we have not been able to move forward much. Although the government has huge money earning potentials from this sector, it has always been neglected. We have to go ahead with the mountain problem in the way of developing the tourism industry.
Poor communication system is the main obstacle in this regard. As it has not become very convenient, the cost of travel is comparatively high and therefore we are failing to attract both domestic & foreign tourists. They also lose interest as the cost of hotels, motels, resorts here is much higher than other tourist friendly countries of the world. There is a considerable lack of security in the tourist attractions of our country. Incidents like theft and robbery happen very often at the daylight. As a result, foreign tourists are gradually losing their attraction due to manifold issues.
As such, concerned authorities should pay attention to this. God has blessed us with a wonderful natural beauty but we have failed to maintain it properly. We have cut down the trees of the Sundarbans. We have destroyed its biodiversity in the hope of our own little interests. According to a statistic, an average of 30 tons of waste is produced in the municipal area of Cox’s Bazar every day. If this continues, it will become a liability in the next 10-15 years.
Very often, most tourist centers in Bangladesh are cheated by local syndicates and local guides. Additionally, lack of proper information in tourist centers frustrates tourists and creates negative perception about our tourism.
Tourism Corporation needs to pay heed to this duly. The government should formulate short, medium and long term master plans for the development of the tourism industry. If implemented, the tourism sector will certainly be one of the major sources of foreign exchange earnings. Our beloved motherland Bangladesh is a land of immense beauty and we have to work sincerely to make it one of the world’s tourist destinations by utilizing its unparalleled beauty.
Professor Nurul Islam Nazem of the Department of Geography of DU said that the tourism master plan of Bangladesh will play a role in achieving the government’s Vision 2021 and Vision 2041 and also sustainable development goals by 2030. Small countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka have come a long way in tourism because they have developed tourism culture. Bangladesh’s tourism will advance if the master plan is implemented. At present, tourism sector is growing at 3 percent, as we aim to take it to 10 parcent, it is necessary for tourism board as well as other concerned authorities to come forward.
He furher said, “Domestic tourism is going on in our country now. There are only few foreign tourists. If foreign tourists do not come, the growth target will not be achieved. Hence, Infrastructure needs to be developed to bring them. An exclusive tourist zone can then be set up for foreign tourists. Bad communication, poor safety and security, have to be worked on. We also need to change the bad habit of darting beaches & tourist spots.
Important steps are necessary to develop the tourism industry in a fast pace. If proper development of tourist centers is possible, it will be easy to attract domestic tourists as well as foreign tourists. We hope that special initiatives will be taken by the government to develop tourism industry infrastructure and tourism products. Besides, private entrepreneurs should also come forward. Increasing wildlife sanctuaries, conservation of natural resources in the sustainable development and development of tourism in Bangladesh can accelerate the development of tourism. Also, the government as well as private tour operators, hotels and aviation have to work together to promote and develop the country’s tourism industry.
The writer is an independent analyst on business and economic issues.