A showcase for sustainable tourism potential in Bangladesh
Remember the name Panigram, as this future eco-resort in Jessore is aiming to become a luxurious, sustainable haven in Bangladesh. In December 2009 a small media group was invited to experience what responsible hospitality and high quality customer service could be in Bangladesh. It was a day to remember.
The experience started with a drive through the gorgeous, fertile countryside followed by a short boat trip on a quiet, picturesque river. There on the riverbank, at the intersection of two rivers, was the Panigram pavilion. We were greeted by two waiters, dressed in beautiful, traditional white panjabis, who offered us a variety of homemade drinks and lemon-scented towels to wash off the journey and refresh us. I took a deep, relaxing breath and started to take in all of my impressions – this upcoming resort was clearly going to be beautiful with amazing customer service, but would it be, in the true sense of the word, sustainable?
Only tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions, while protecting and enhancing the area for future generations, is worthy of the term “sustainable tourism”. Rather than being a type of product, it is an ethos that underpins all tourism activities. As such, it must be integrated into all aspects of tourism development and management, rather than being just an add-on component.
My expectations were very high, but I was not disappointed. The full day program at Panigram included a walking tour of the project site, a seven course lunch at a beautifully decorated table with a river view, boat and rickshaw tours of the countryside, and an evening snack that we enjoyed from our hammocks while watching the sunset. The values of sustainability and excellent service were striking in even the smallest details.
After lunch, Panigram’s developer, Kristin Boekhoff, presented all of us with gift baskets filled with items that highlighted some of the resort’s sustainable aspects. Examples included:
• A small pottery vase that was made in a nearby pottery village. Panigram hopes to work with the pottery village (which is just a fifteen minute walk from the resort) to develop modern designs derived from village-style pottery that can be used in the restaurant and sold in the gift shop at fair trade prices.
• An elaborate hand fan made from palm leaf. Beautiful, high quality fans in Bangladesh are slowly being replaced by the cheap, mass-produced, low-quality variety. Panigram is working with a pakha village near the resort to revive this art that is slowly dying out.
• Fruits grown in the area. Panigram will be built on sixty bighas (20 acres) of land. There will be extensive organic gardens where fruits and vegetables will be grown to be used in the restaurant. This will be supplemented with produce from the local farmers whom Panigram hopes to share their environmentally friendly organic farming techniques with.
Even the basket itself was made by a socially responsible craft company in Jessore that trains and employs impoverished rural women.
Panigram Resort intends to employ many of the local villagers, and they are working with the community to develop ancillary businesses that will cater to the resort and the burgeoning tourist market it will create.
Panigram is environmentally sustainable as well as socially responsible. The resort will be designed by award-winning Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum and built from mud and bamboo – ancient, local building materials that are extremely sustainable. Alternative energy, composting, organic farming, and grey water recycling are just a few of the eco-friendly aspects of the resort.
Panigram is billing itself as “a taste of Bangladeshi village life.” They are working with the local community to develop activities that savvy tourists would enjoy – like fishing with a local fisherman, taking a class in the pottery village, and boating on the river. Both the villagers and the local government are very supportive of the project and worked side-by-side with the Panigram team in the summer to develop the temporary pavilion on the project site. (The pavilion will serve as the site office during the construction period.)
The Panigram experience was extremely enjoyable and fully lived up to my high expectations for service and sustainability. Though Bangladesh is still in the nascent stages of developing an international tourism industry, responsible hospitality could be one solution to the many social and environmental challenges that the country is currently facing. Social and environmental sustainability would fit in much better with the local culture and environment than typical “big box” hotels with discotheques and casinos would. Hopefully Panigram Resort will inspire others and demonstrate that you can have a resort that is both sustainable and extremely profitable.
Future Panigram guests must be patient as the resort will not be open until 2011, but some things are worth waiting for…
Panigram Resort will be a socially and environmentally responsible boutique eco resort located on a river in southern Bangladesh just 70 km from the famous Sundarban mangrove forest. This luxury resort with a spa and wellness center will protect the natural and cultural heritage of Bangladesh, provide authentic and distinctive travel experiences to discerning travelers, promote sustainable development, and improve the quality of life in the host community.
Panigram Resort is currently under development; its anticipated opening is in mid-2011 and construction is expected to start in the spring. More information on Panigram Resort and Spa can be found on the website: www.panigram.com. Inquiries can be addressed to Kristin Boekhoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Majbritt Thomsen is a Danish expatriate with a MA in tourism, two years of living and traveling in Bangladesh and a study on the potential of the national tourism sector for the Royal Danish Embassy, Dhaka. Late 2008 she initiated The Views On Tourism Project to encourage a sustainable tourism development in Bangladesh through knowledge and cooperation.
About the media trip:
Follow the green link to read the former Views On Tourism article on Media trip to up-coming eco-resort in Jessore
Download the Bangla Vision (TV) broadcast from this Panigram media trip. Panigram in Bangla Vision – please note this is a large information file.
There are so many visionary people and valuable resources related to a sustainable tourism development in Bangladesh. If these forces are united great things will happen – both on grass root, private sector and at government level.
Please join the online Views On Tourism network and discussion group in order to achieve personal goals as well as encourage a sustainable tourism development in Bangladesh. Read more about this group and how to become a member here.
This article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’