Of course, the tourism sector is increasingly being considered as an important sector in the world. It contributes in economic and other ways. In Bangladesh, it is undeniably a significant sector. It is usually rendered as service sector but it immensely contributes to the local and national economy in a variety of ways and helps Bangladesh to earn a huge amount of revenue each year. This sector, which consists of several sub-sectors such as accommodation, transportation and travel services, food and beverage, recreation and entertainment and events and conferences, has huge potentials in economic, infrastructural development, human resource development and some other terms in Bangladesh. Of course, the number of tourists is increasing in Bangladesh year by year.
Notably, tourism usually means traveling to and staying in places that are outside of the usual place for a certain period. The United Nations World Tourism Organization defines tourism as “the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited”. Tourism is usually of two types such as international tourism and domestic tourism. International tourism is the one in which people cross national boundaries, while domestic tourism is the one in which residents of one county travel within only that country. Sometimes, tourism can be short-distance tourism and long-distance tourism. Furthermore, tourism can be recreational tourism, environmental tourism, historical tourism, health tourism, adventure tourism, religious tourism, ethnic tourism and cultural tourism.
Tourism in Bangladesh is usually rendered to be archeological, historical and natural beauty-based. Of course, Bangladesh has many tourist places in Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and other places including hill tracts, sea beaches, the tea valley and Sundarban where a large number of domestic and international travelers visit. The most visited tourist place is Cox’s Bazaar sea beach. Of course, Bangladesh made many efforts to improve this sector including the modernization of tourist places, improved safety and security with the establishment of tourist police, improved transportation facilities and improved accommodation facilities. Even if these led to the increase in the number of tourists, this sector has not improved as desired. Consequently, the number of tourists, especially international, has not increased much. Indeed, Bangladesh accounts for only 4.5% of all international tourists visiting South Asian countries and almost two-thirds of foreign tourist arrivals in Bangladesh are from neighboring countries (India, Pakistan and other South Asian countries). Moreover, tourists mainly arrive for business purposes and the number of leisure tourists is insignificant.
Undeniably, there is a wide range of challenges to the desired development of the tourism sector of the country. Of course, diverse challenges can be viewed from several viewpoints such as site and facilities-based, management and service-based, and promotion-based. Of course, many tourist sites are not well developed and there is a lack of modern infrastructure and other facilities. For instance, there is an absence of boating, windsurfing, horse racing and other modern playing instruments with local recreation facilities in sea-based tourist places. These are because of a lack of proper planning from the government, unplanned development of constructions projects, inadequate funding or investment and a lack of political will for the development of this sector. Indeed, there is inadequate budget allocation of the government for this sector. Even if different private organizations are playing roles in the development of this sector with increased investments, their efforts are scant. Also, the investment made by private organizations is, on most occasions, inadequately planned.
Of course, management of tourism and tourist places and services are very crucial for maintaining and improving accessibility and tourist facilities as well as attracting tourists from home and abroad. But there is a lack of initiative to preserve, conserve and manage tourist places and tourism-based services as desired by government and private organizations. Of course, there are criticisms of safety and security (because of robbing, kidnapping, or hijacking), and is a lack of accessibility because of complicated visa and travel facilities. Moreover, there is a lack of institutional capacity of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism to oversee and monitor tourism-related activities and services and up-to-date information. Undeniably, there is a dearth of well-trained, skilled and efficient manpower needed for the management and providing of tourism-related services.
Moreover, promotional campaigns are very important for attracting tourists from home and abroad. But, as is criticized, the touristic image of Bangladesh is not good enough. Bangladesh is often projected to the world as a flood-prone, cyclone-affected and politically unstable country. Even if political stability has increased in recent years, long-time instability frequented by strikes and other political demonstrations created a negative image of the country. But there is a lack of efforts to developing the touristic image of Bangladesh or publicity favoring tourism in Bangladesh. In this respect, the role of the National Tourism Organization named Bangladesh Parjatan (Tourism) Corporation (BPC), which is a statutory board of Bangladesh that is responsible for the promotion of the tourism sector, is undeniably frustrating. Though some efforts are being made recently, these are inadequate.
But, as noted already, this sector has enormous prospects for Bangladesh. Given that the above challenges are mitigated in an effective and planned manner, this sector can bring huge economic, social and environmental benefits to the country. In economic terms, it can generate more revenue for the government, facilitate a range of businesses and create more opportunities for jobs. Socially, it can positively contribute to not only communities in terms of bringing pride and developing identity but also the country in terms of promoting rich national traditions and developing identity. Environmentally, tourism has the potential to help conserve the ecosystem and manage natural resources in a planned manner that can reduce the chances of the degradation of the environment of the country.
To the desired development of this sector, more effective and planned efforts are needed. In this respect, the government needs to increase budget allocation and implement the National Tourism Policy 2010. Moreover, the institutional capacity of the ministry of civil aviation and tourism needs to be strengthened. Of course, private and other organizations need to make some responsible efforts. Moreover, the safety and security of tourist places and tourists need to be boosted up and travel and visa processes should be made easier. Of course, training is needed to be given to developing manpower needed for the improvement of services related to the tourism sector. A promotional campaign at home and abroad is needed by identifying the target and potential markets for increased domestic and international tours in Bangladesh. Furthermore, measures are needed to develop and update websites to attract international tourists.
Of course, ecotourism and the protection of cultural identity need to be especially noted here. Ecotourism that is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people and involves interpretation and education needs to be emphasized in the development of the tourism sector of the country. Moreover, recreational tourism needs some sort of conservative efforts because Bangladesh is not as liberal as Europe and some other developed countries are, even if it is not as conservative as many other countries are. But conservative approach especially to recreational tourism needs to be creatively reflected so that this does not discourage international tourism in Bangladesh.