Tourism prospect of Bangladesh

August 11, 2011

OP-ED
Tourism prospect of Bangladesh
If tourism is given due honour of industry and if both government and private organisations equally come forward for its development then it would open doors of immense possibility for us. At present, in our gross domestic product, the role of tourism is below one per cent. If it could be brought to five per cent then it would generate about five lakh direct and indirect employment, writes Ikteder Ahmed.
IN THE modern world tourism plays an important role in economic development, foreign exchange earnings and national growth of any country. Amongst our neighbouring and adjoining countries, excepting Nepal, the amount of foreign exchange earned from tourism by India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. is few times more than our entire export earnings. The developed countries of the world such as United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, etc are emphasizing on the due importance of the development of tourism, as it is helpful in attaining diversified prosperity. For the growth of tourism of any country the most important factors are political stability, law and order, improved communications and transport infrastructure, which includes advanced railways, roads and highways, navigable waterways and importantly, aviation system, as well as, positive government policies regarding tourism.
There are two types of tourists, one is local tourist and the other is foreign tourist. Foreign tourists play a special role in the matter of foreign exchange earnings, while local tourists help to inject impetus and momentum into the economy by way of domestic expenditure.
To facilitate the rapid growth of tourism the developed countries of the world do not usually maintain state ownership and maintenance of tourist accommodation services, such as hotels and rest houses. Consequently, in nearly each district town of advanced countries, there are modern hotels with good accommodation and other facilities. When any state guest goes to any developed country, the accommodation and bilateral meetings are arranged in a hotel, commensurate with the status and position of the state guest. In the same way, at present, in the developed countries of the world, no permanent training institute is in place for the training of officials of both public and private sectors. At present, training cell instead of training institute formulates, as well as operates, all acts pertaining to training of the officials of advanced countries. The reason behind this is that setting up, operation and maintenance of training institutes are expensive and it causes misuse of land and resources. Control of circuit house and different guest houses under state management and setting up of training institutes by each department are main impediments to development of tourism industry in our country. Cheap transportation is a prime prerequisite for development of the tourism industry. In the developed countries, other than the ministers, no government official gets the facility of transport with driver provided by the state. In our country, till today, well organised taxi cab service has neither been developed in Dhaka nor in any other district headquarters, and the district headquarters’ departmental heads as well as Dhaka city officers, with the rank of secretary to joint secretary, get facility of transport, with driver, from the state. If this official facility is withdrawn and the entitled persons are supplied transport by way of instalment and also given reasonable transport allowance then that would help expansion of taxi cab service in Dhaka city as well as all district headquarters on a more competitive basis, which in turn would accelerate development of tourism industry.
The geographical location of Bangladesh as well as its environment and people’s sincerity are congenial towards development of the tourism industry. Some of the prime tourist attractions, or locations, which possess a tremendous degree of tourism potential are the longest stretch of sea beach at Cox’s Bazar, landscape enveloped by hills, vast haors (marshlands found in Bangladesh’s north eastern part), an oceanic island (Saint Martin), coastal forestry, ancient Buddhist monuments, different Hindu and Muslim shrines (many of which have historical significance) and different Moghul establishments of the middle century. In addition, Sundarban, the world’s largest mangrove forest was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, which would doubtlessly serve to add to the tourism value of Sundarban. Furthermore, as of present, Sundarban has been enlisted as one of the potential entries into the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
In Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation has been officially assigned to work for development of tourism industry. At present the activities of this organisation are limited to management of some hotels and motels and arrangement of guided tours. The hopes and aspirations which had lead to the establishment of this organisation has not yet been unfortunately achieved by the organisation and thus at present the activities of the organisation have been squeezed, by leaving management of some hotels and motels to private entrepreneurs on rental basis.
Keeping in mind the development of tourism industry, different private entrepreneurs have set up quite a number of hotels with modern facilities in towns and places, attractive in the context of tourism. These hotels can be termed as two or three stars in consideration of grade. There are about 30 hotels falling within these grades at Cox’s Bazar which are solely managed by private entrepreneurs. There are about four to five hotels of this type in Saint Martin’s, the only oceanic island of Bangladesh. Apart from that, there is one such hotel at Kuakata and two at three at Khulna.
In recent years the dramatic expansion of export trade and setting up of considerable number of foreign factories in different export processing zones have also injected a formidable amount of impetus to tourism in Bangladesh. However, largely owing to underdeveloped and inadequate tourism facilities, these foreigners, largely confine their stay in the country strictly for the duration of their business related work and thus seldom show any interest to visit any place important in the view point of tourism, such as Cox’s Bazar, Sunamganj, Habiganj, Sundarban of Khulna, Kuakata of Patuakhali, Paharpur of Naogaon, etc.
If tourism is given due honour of industry and if both government and private organisations equally come forward for its development then it would open doors of immense possibility for us. At present, in our gross domestic product, the role of tourism is below one per cent. If it could be brought to five per cent then it would generate about five lakh direct and indirect employment, which would move the economic index in the upper direction, in all areas.
In the context of economic development, foreign exchange earnings and national growth of Bangladesh, the tourism industry has yet to make significant contributions. For accelerating development of tourism industry in Bangladesh, in addition to  ensuring political stability and law and order situation firstly, the tourist accommodation facilities (hotels, etc) will have to be firmly divorced from state management like that of developed countries; secondly, all training programmes including accommodation of the trainees shall have to be arranged in different hotels after closing down all training institutes; thirdly, other than the ministers, all public servants, instead of getting transport facility with driver from the government, should be allowed to purchase transport with reasonable instalment and should also be given transportation allowance on applicable cases; fourthly, there shall have to be appropriate development of the railways, roads and highways, river-ways and aviation system, fifthly, there shall have to be suitable infrastructure for both domestic and foreign tourists in all the places important from the view point of tourism, sixthly, there shall have to be congenial atmosphere of safe and easy travel for the tourist and seventhly, for encouraging private entrepreneurs to invest in the tourism sector there shall have to be loan facility from the government with lower interest rate, tax holiday, allotment of land in proper and appropriate place, etc. If the aforesaid seven aspects, along with other discussed aspects can be ensured, then shortly, in this country, tourism will develop as an industry and will play a positive role in economic and national development.

(Article originally published on New Age)

Ikteder Ahmed is a former judge and registrar, Supreme Court. iktederahmed@yahoo.com.

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