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How to develop the Bangladeshi tourism sector

To make the point very clear
Several international players have highlighted Bangladesh positively as a tourism destination during the last couple of years. The worldwide New7Wonders of Nature campaign included Sundarbans and Cox’s Bazar among more than 440 candidate locations from 220 countries. Along with only 27 locations Sundarbans is still a part of the competition. World leading publisher of travel guides and guidebooks, Lonely Planet, last year recommended Bangladesh as one of the top ten interesting travel destination in 2009. New travel guides has been published on Bangladesh by international renowned publishers; Lonely Planet (2008, 5th ed.) and Bradt (2009, 1th ed.). There should be no doubt, national as well as international; the Bangladesh tourism sector has indeed potential!

But to make a successful international tourism destination it is just not enough that Bangladesh has an interesting history, culture, nature and society to show – much more it required.
A barrier to a positive development of the Bangladeshi tourism sector is the lack of a consistent sustainable strategy based on cooperation and knowledge. To take advantage of the Bangladeshi tourism potential, the right long-term actions are needed from all players involved.
This bold conclusion, as well as the following suggestions, is a conviction based on my experience as a Danish expatriate with a MA in tourism, two and a half years of living and traveling in Bangladesh, a study on the potential of the national tourism sector, contact with national tourism players and owner of the ‘Views On Tourism Project’, which offer online knowledge and network services to the Bangladeshi tourism sector.

First step: Aim for sustainability
Tourism is internationally often praised as an effective development tool, especially in rural areas and the developing world. The presence of tourism in any destination always brings with it economic, environmental and socio-cultural impacts. A sustainable development would have a huge positive impact in Bangladesh, but it is only achievable by balancing the needs of tourists with those of the destination.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization defines sustainable tourism as tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. The objective of sustainable tourism is to retain the economic and social advantages of tourism development, by creating jobs and income, and promotes intercultural relations and mutual understanding. At the same time sustainable tourism minimize the increasingly well-known tourism side effects on people and populations, nature and culture, which are caused by the enormous amounts of transportation, the consumption of resources, inadequate preparation of travel and inappropriate behavior at the destination.

Many destinations have learned a hard lesson, when their uncontrolled tourism development has benefited short term business success at the cost of negative affect side effects like prostitution, pollution, high living cost, lost of cultural identity and extinction of species. In order to not repeat the mistake of other destinations, Bangladesh must aim for a long-term sustainable tourism development.

Second step: Actions through increased cooperation
Sustainable tourism development is by far an easy task and the responsibility for the present and future national tourism development is shared by all players involved. Some of the players easy forgotten are the many knowledgeable and visionary professionals in sectors related to tourism, e.g. education institutions, NGO’s, nature conservation and finance.
Countries with modest corporation between the public authorities and the private tourism sector, like Bangladesh, should be inspired by the concept of New Tourism. This concept is introduced in the report ‘Blueprint for tourism’ (2003) from The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
New Tourism pushes for a new sense of coherent partnership between the private sector and public authorities to deliver commercially successful products – but in a way that ensures benefits for everyone. It focuses on long-term benefits not only for people who travel, but also for people in the communities they visit, and for their respective natural, social and cultural environments.
WTTC recommend the flowering action from new tourism players:
Government should: Show leadership by defining coherent and streamlined management structures that can efficiently drive New Tourism; Elevate Travel & Tourism to strategic national level with senior level policy-making; and Factor Travel & Tourism into all policies and decision-making, to promote growth that respects both business needs and the well-being of citizens.
Industry should: Adapt strategic thinking so as to develop tourism with benefits for everyone; Extend and diversify product offerings to improve yields and social value; and Spearhead innovative management and help spread best practice through corporate social responsibility.
All stakeholders should: Cooperate in identifying opportunities for growth; Focus on building Travel & Tourism that opens up prospects for people – from employment to development; and Work together to remove impediments to growth – from infrastructure shortcomings to pollution, and from outdated legislation to unmet health and security concerns.

Third step: Knowledge – the inspiration to act wisely
The obstacles that Bangladeshi tourism faces include areas of marketing, management, infrastructure, policy, safety, regulation, image, destination development. These obstacles are not unique – they are actually the reality of worldwide tourism destinations. Solutions should always be adjusted to a specific context – but valuable inspiration can be found in the success, experiences and knowledge of others.

A key to successful tourism management of all levels is therefore access to national and international updated knowledge on best practices, tourism trends, travel statistics, target market development, sustainability status etc. A lot of this knowledge already exists – if you know where to look or who to ask!
One place to start searching for inspiration is the webpage ‘Views On Tourism – Knowledge and Inspiration to the Bangladeshi Tourism Sector’. This free of cost service was launched in December 2008 with the objective to gather national, regional and international knowledge on the many topics related to a sustainable tourism development. The vision is to create an online tourism knowledge pool with contribution from knowledgeable and visionary players related to tourism.

To repeat the conclusion:
A long-term positive tourism development in Bangladesh is possible and best archived through sustainable tourism development based on knowledge and cooperation. To succeed will require visionary and united action from numerous players.

This article is written and uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’

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Posted in Bangladesh, Cooperation and network, Development, Education and qualification, Performance and management, Policy, Sustainability.

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