Bangladesh failed to tap into the potential of tourism industry
Attitude problem towards the industry and lack of visionary leadership hold it behind
Kamrun Nahar, Staff Reporter, The Financial Express: It was mid-March last. I started for a five-day tour in Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar with my son and a cousin of his age after their SSC exam. We got on a bus from Kalabagan at 11pm and unfortunately reached to Bandarban at 11am next day, which was supposed to be at best an eight hours journey.
We took our breakfast in Bandarban town after getting refreshed at our hotel and searched for a ‘Chander gari’ to go to Nilgiri for which we went there.
There was a burning sun overhead and we had to wait in a queue to get a Chander gari. Finally, we dropped our plan considering the hassle and scorching heat and the fare of Chander gari which was about Tk4400. We then hired a CNG, suitable to travel in hilly areas at a cost of Tk 2300.
It took a little more than two hours to reach Nilgiri amid several stopovers. During the journey, we saw hundreds of tourists travel Nilgiri and other destinations in Bandarban, who were cheering and shouting despite sweltering heat. After reaching our dream destination, we roam around, took photos in the midst of the beautiful scenario.
The worrying part is that it was a 46-kilometer journey and of the total road, only 20 km was a well carpeted, with the rest part being dilapidated.
I was surprised to know that about 2000 tourists visit Nilgiri a day during off season. It becomes 6000 during peak season. The tourist spots in the district including Nilachal, Meghalaya, Swarna Mondir, Nirlgiri, and others become overcrowded in the weekend and festivals or any government holidays.
But the army was so reluctant to repair the dilapidated road and there was no information available as to who will repair the road when or whether any step has been taken so far. The memory is still so fresh in my mind that I want to go there in the Oxygen factory over and over again. Finaly, we moved to Cox’s Bazar and it was a hectic journey as there was no direct bus service and the female travellers suffer much.
Our excitement disappeared upon reaching Cox’s Bazar while there was huge traffic jam and the hotel motel zone was over crowded. The noise pollution was hughly disturbing, with the tourist police being rather active in some other purposes than to control the traffic. The situation at night is so insecure that tourists fear to go to the beach.
The purpose of my writing is to show how potential the tourism industry of Bangladesh is and what the authorities have done so far. The domestic tourism market has been rising significantly with around 70 lakh tourists visiting various destinations in the country each year. The number of domestic tourist has reached around 65 to 70 lakh by the end of 2017, which was around 3 to 5 lakh in 2000, according to Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, University of Dhaka. The department predicts domestic tourist turnout will cross 1 crore within next 5 to 6 years provided necessary policy is taken.
The government must promote the country to attract the foreigners which is very important for the sustainability in and foreign currency earnings from the sector. Inadequacy of suitable infrastructure, lack of end-point connectivity and quality roads, higher hotel and accommodation charges, lack of skilled tourism professionals are the challenges for the flourishing of the industry.
Bangladesh lags far behind India, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan when it comes to tourism. The Bangladesh Tourism Board Act and Parjatan Policy were never translated into action, making things even tougher for the industry.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), around 1.5 million people are directly involved in the Bangladesh tourism industry. Tourism contributed Tk 421.4 billion directly or 2.2 per cent of GDP in 2016. It is expected to rise to Tk 806.6 billion by 2027. Tourism industry generated 1,057,000 jobs directly in 2016 (1.8 per cent of the total employment). By 2027, travel and tourism industry will account for 1138000 jobs directly.
According to industry insiders, around 60% of the domestic travellers visit Cox’s Bazar. The rest usually visit Chittagong, Sylhet, the Sundarbans, and some tourist spots in North Bengal.
Ensuring communication services and reducing traffic problems are crucial for the development of this sector. It was important to cut down travel time and ensure easy accessibility for travellers. Security issues, too, needed to be addressed.
Besides, the government has failed to set up three exclusive tourist zones. Short take off and landing services should be established. Moreover, the negative image of Bangladesh due to Holy Artisan attack, Rohingya crisis and inconvenience at the airport should be addressed seriously.