Md. Joynal Abdin
The Independent on October 3, 2016
Bangladesh has great tourism potential. It is potential in terms of continuous economic growth, strategic location for regional connectivity, enriched natural and historical beauty, diversified landscape including plain lands, hills, rivers and sea sights etc. It has green plain land, medium-height hilly range with evergreen trees, sandy sea beaches and the largest mangrove forest in its beauty basket. With such land diversity it has ethnic diversity of people, religious varieties, cultural differences and different life styles of the people.
Direct contribution of tourism into Bangladesh GDP was 2.2 per cent in 2014, which is expected to grow to about 4.7 per cent by 2024 according to the projection of WTTC. This level puts Bangladesh at a rank of 165, whereas countries like Thailand and Malaysia are ranked at 35 and 41, and neighboring India ranked at 135. The total contributions of the tourism sector to GDP for the abovementioned countries are respectively – Thailand (20.2 per cent of GDP); Malaysia (16.6 per cent of GDP) and India (6.2 per cent of GDP.) These statistics suggests that Bangladesh needs to improve its performance significantly over the medium term to attain the target achieved by India.
Similarly the tourism sector has so far generated about 3 million jobs in 2014, and is projected to generate up to 4 million jobs by 2024. Thus the contribution of tourism sector in total employment is around 4 per cent and according to the WTTC projections it may reach 4.3 by 2024. The projections however are not very promising as it suggests only 0.3 per cent increase in employment generation over the next 10 years’ time period.
Bangladesh’s beauty basket contains beautiful landscape like, Bisanakandi at Sylhet, Sangu River at Thanchi in Bandarban, tea gardens in Srimongol, Bhawal National Park in Gazipur, Himchari National Park in Cox’s Bazar, Kaptai National Park in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Lawachara National Park in Moulavibazar etc. Its archeological excellence includes Lalbagh Fort in Dhaka, Ahsan Manzil in Dhaka, Shalbon Bihar in Kotbari, Comilla, the War Cemetery in Moynamati, Comilla, Mahasthangarh in Bogra, Shat Gombuj Mosque in Bagherhat, Tajhat Palace in Rangpur, Paharpur Bihar in Naogan, Kantoji Temple in Dinajpur, Puthia Palace in Rajshahi, and Suna Mosque in Chapai Nawabgaonj etc. Beautiful sea beaches like Cox’s Bazar Sea Beach, Patenga Sea Beach in Chittagong, Teknaf Sea Beach in Cox’s Bazar, Saint Martin’s sea beach in Cox’s Bazar, Kuakata Sea Beach in Patuakhali etc.
Bangladesh is having diversified and rich religious attractions like Mazar of Hazrat Shah Jalal (Rh.) and Shah Poran (Rh.) in Sylhet, Shah Mostafa (Rh.) in Moulvibazar, Khan Jahan Ali (Rh.) in Bagherhat, Shah Mokhdum (Rh.) in Rajshahi, Baro Awlia in Chittagong etc. All these are considered as holy places by the Muslim community. Bangladesh is also home to religious heritages of the Hindu community like Dhakeshwari Temple in Dhaka, Joy Kali Temple in Dhaka, Kantaji Temple in Dinajpur, Chandranath Temple in Chittagong, Dhamrai Jagannath Roth in Dhamrai, Boro Kali Bari Temple in Mymensingh, Comilla Jagannath Temple in Comilla, Adinath Temple, Moheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar and Bhabanipur Shaktipeethin Bogra, etc. There are places in Bangladesh carrying memories of famous Buddhist Saint Atish Dipankar and many more.
Besides these Bangladesh have many beautiful islands, hill stations and natural forest sights yet to develop as tourist place. Cox’s Bazar is the most prominent tourist attraction of Bangladesh. Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Sunderbans and Koakata have tourist potentials but Cox’s Bazar is the most potential one. We feel proud that Bangladesh has the longest sandy sea beach of the world at Cox’s Bazar. But this pride is facing threats due to the erosion of beach sands in many spot in Cox’s Bazar. I have visited Cox’s Bazar in 2008, 2012 and very recently in September 2016. I have the opportunity to visit most of the beaches at the town up to the Enani. I found many Spots like BIAM spot, Labony Spot, Himchari spot and Enani beach etc. beaches are broken and big holes are creating near to the surfing area. In some points sea came up to the marine drive. I saw few dams in those points to prevent this broken tendency of the sea. Similar action is required to retain the beach points by filling up the holes with sands. Tourists are used to take bath at the beach; if these beaches are not safe for tourist’s bath then people will not go to these beaches. Broken down of the beach in many points may cause of long-term threat to the sea beach based tourism of Bangladesh. Therefore it is the right time to inspect the causes of abnormal broken down of the beaches and take necessary development interventions to retain the existing beaches and explore new spots for future expansions.
Many expert used to argue that, Bangladeshi tourism sector will not be flourished due to our inability to offer bar and other recreational facilities to the foreign tourists for sociocultural restriction to these. It’s true that bar etc. has an extra appeal to the young tourists but all tourist are not required these two. There are researchers come to watch diversified birds, animals, and other ecological agent of a country. Therefor we could try to develop research based ecotourism here in Bangladesh. The Sunderban, various safari parks and other coastal forests could be utilized in this regard. Archeological researchers could be attracted into the archeological glories of Bangladesh. Reserved tourists spot could be specially developed for the foreigners only. Hill stations and tea gardens could get special priorities to develop cottage / rest house based tourist attractions in Bangladesh for spending vacation with beloved people. Religious Muslims, Hindus or Buddhist tourists could be attracted into the historical and religious important locations.
We have many limitations in terms of tourist infrastructure, safe environment, secure residence, unwanted hassles from criminals or police so on and so forth. Until now tourism is a seasonal affair (mainly winter-based). But it could be developed as a year-long industry with proper planning. This is the time to change our mindset from foreign tourist-dependency into domestic tourist-based activities.
Bangladeshi tourists are contributing significant earnings of Indian tourism sector. Why they do not feel comfort to stay at home in this regard? This is because of the shortage of tourist infrastructure’s availability in Bangladesh. Private Sector could play a vital role in developing tourist spots throughout the coastal belt of Bangladesh. Never the less potential has in the northern, eastern or the western part of the country. If local tourists feel secure and comfortable in Bangladesh then foreign tourists will feel confidence to come and enjoy the beauty of Bangladesh.