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Unlocking tourism potential – a Daily Star column

Cox's bazar Photo Daily Star
Tourism in any destination brings with it sociocultural as well as economic impacts. Tourism internationally is often praised as an effective development tool, especially in rural areas and the developing world. Photo: STAR

National tourism has much potential, if the right actions are taken. Bangladesh is still one of the countries in South Asia with the fewest arrivals and the lowest revenue earned from the tourism industry. Nevertheless, tourism has since the 1990s been a small but rapidly growing sector of Bangladesh economy.

The international business leader forum – World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) – annually publishes country reports on 181 countries, including Bangladesh. Their report “Travel & Tourism economic impact – Bangladeshi 2009” predicts the contribution from national travel and tourism to gross domestic product will stay at 4 percent from 2009 to 2019. This year, contribution is expected to be at Tk 2,448 billion, which by 2019 will increase to Tk 7,113 billion. The real GDP growth for the travel and tourism economy for Bangladesh is therefore expected to be 3.5 percent in 2009 and increase to an average 6 percent a year over the next 10 years.

In terms of tourism image, several international players highlighted Bangladesh as a tourism destination in the last couple of years.
The worldwide New7Wonders of Nature campaign started in 2007 with more than 440 locations from 220 countries. The Sundarbans and Cox’s Bazar represented Bangladesh. By global voting and expert selection, the number of candidates was reduced twice to 77 and 28 candidates. The Sundarbans is still in the competition and voting will continue throughout 2010 and into 2011, to narrow the number to 7. The campaign will aim to visit each of the finalists to allow them to present themselves to voters across the globe. The winner of the campaign will be announced in 2011.
Lonely Planet, which is in the world leader in publishing travel guides and guidebooks, recommended Bangladesh last year as one of the top ten interesting travel destination in 2009:

“Let’s get this straight from the start. Bangladesh is not the country of disappointment as portrayed in ‘Brick Lane’ or by the international media, nor is it merely the poorly endowed cousin of India. Instead, Bangladesh is a revelation that actually leaves India looking a little worse for a wear. Any visitor who ventures here will return home with stories so improbable that claiming you have a pet unicorn is likely to be met with fewer disbelieving shakes of the head.”

The first Bradt travel guide on Bangladesh was published in October 2009. This UK publisher is known as a pioneer in tackling ‘unusual’ destinations, for championing the causes of sustainable travel and for the high quality of writing. The back cover text states:

“Bangladesh has a reputation for being poor and beset by flooding, but this ‘republic of rivers’ rewards those willing to look beyond the headlines. Leave luxuries behind and embark on the richest of travel experiences among some of the sub-continent’s friendliest people”.

Lonely Planet published its fifth edition of the Bangladeshi travel guide in 2008, with the following introduction:

“For all of its forests, temples, mosques, islands and beaches, the highlight of Bangladesh is Bangladesh.”

In terms of positive national tourism branding, the above international focus on Bangladesh is not even possible to buy for money. There should be no doubt, national as well as international: the Bangladesh tourism sector has potential.

In my view, a barrier to a positive development of the Bangladeshi tourism sector is a lack of a consistent strategy based on cooperation, knowledge and sustainability. To take advantage of the tourism potential, the right actions are needed from all players involved.

The presence of tourism in any destination always brings with it environmental and socio-cultural as well as economic impacts. This is why tourism internationally is often praised as an effective development tool, especially in rural areas and the developing world. A sustainable tourism strategy will have a major positive impact in Bangladesh and as the tourism challenges is by far unique – why not be inspired by the success and experience of others?
In December 2008, the website ‘Views On Tourism – Knowledge and Inspiration to the Bangladeshi Tourism Sector’ was launched to gather national, regional and international articles on the many topics related to positive tourism development. The website now includes more than 200 articles, over 70 links and an overview of the important national tourism players.
A second project, the LinkedIn group ‘Views On Tourism – Bangladeshi Network and Discussion’, was launched in May 2009. LinkedIn is an interconnected network and members can join several networking groups, including more than 500 related to tourism and over 100 to Bangladesh. The ‘Views On Tourism’ group is a professional tourism group, which provides the possibility to network with national, regional and international players.

The writer, a Danish expatriate with an MA in tourism, can be reached at to know how to become a member of the network group.

This article is quoted from The Daily Star, Bangladesh . The article Unlocking tourism potential was originally published on 2009-11-6.
Uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.

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Posted in Bangladesh, Cooperation and network, Development, IT, Sustainability.

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