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Promoting tourism in Bangladesh

Tourism has experienced continuous growth and diversification to become one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the world over the past six decades. This is one of the today’s most crucial, dynamic and charismatic international industry sectors. Tourism has become one of the major international trade categories. Now-a days, the export income generated by international tourism ranks fourth after fuels, chemicals and automotive products. For many developing countries, it is one of the main income sources and the number one export category, creating much needed employment and opportunities for development. Tourism is essential for many countries due to its capacity to generate income through the consumption of goods and services by visitors and tourists, the taxes levied on businesses in the tourism industry and the employment opportunity for the service industries linked with tourism. These service industries include transportation services such as road, air and cruise ships and boats, accommodation such as hotels, motels, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues and other hospitality industry services such as spas, resorts, etc. The global economic and social changes have a great impact on tourism business development in recent years have given rise to new challenges and opportunities.

Before going further it is better to discuss about tourism very briefly. Tourism is travel for predominantly recreational or leisure purposes or the provision of services to support this leisure travel. According to UNWTO, tourism comprises the activities of persons travelling 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. UNWTO defines tourists as people who “travel to and stay 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”.

Some other definitions are also very useful to understand tourism. These terms are: recreation, leisure and travel. The word recreation has been coined from Latin word ‘recreare’ means to refresh. Refreshment of one’s mind or body after work through activity that recreates or amuses or stimulates (e.g., play, walking, dancing, traveling, scuba diving, etc.). It is an activity done for pleasure or relaxation after the regular routine of one’s responsibilities or duties. From tourism point of view, the activity of traveling for pleasure, to see sights, for recreation, etc. The word leisure comes from Norman French leisour and Old French leisir means to be permitted, from Latin licre.

It means having free time/spare time which is not occupied. It is freedom from time-consuming duties, responsibilities or activities. It allows time or opportunity for relaxation or hobbies. So leisure is such time which one can spend as one likes, especially when one does not have to work. Tourism is different from travel. In order for tourism to happen, there must be a displacement: an individual has to travel, using any type of means of transportation (he might even travel on foot: nowadays, it is often the case for poorer societies, and happens even in more developed ones, and concerns pilgrims, hikers …). But all travel is not tourism.

Three criteria are used simultaneously in order to characterize a trip as belonging to tourism. The displacement must be such that: (1) involves a displacement outside the usual environment (2) type of purpose: the travel must occur for any purpose different from being remunerated from within the place visited: the previous limits, where tourism was restricted to recreation and visiting family and friends are now expanded to include a vast array of purposes and (3) duration: only a maximal duration (one year) is mentioned, not a minimal. Tourism displacement can be with or without an overnight stay.

Tourism has become a popular global leisure activity in the world. If we look on the international tourism status then it will be translucent. According to United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals increased from 25 million to 903 million from 1950 to 2007. There were over 903 million international tourist arrivals in 2007 with a growth of 6.6% as compared to 2006 whereas it was 698 million in 2000 (growth was 7.3% of 1999). International tourist receipts were US$ 856 billion in 2007. The overall export income generated by these arrivals (international tourism receipts and passengers transport) grew at a similar pace, outgrowing the world economy, exceeding US$ 1 trillion in 2007, or almost US$ 3 billion a day.

Despite the uncertainties in the global economy, arrivals grew at around 5% during the first four months of 2008, almost a similar growth than the same period in 2007. For the whole of 2008, a softening of growth is anticipated due to the uncertainties posed by the current global economy affecting consumer confidence and constraining disposable income. Based on UNWTO reports, most of the top tourism earners in 2007 are European countries while the United States remains at the top earner.

The UNWTO forecasts that international tourism will continue growing at the average annual rate of 4 %. By 2020 Europe will remain the most popular destination, but its share will drop from 60% in 1995 to 46%. Long-haul will grow slightly faster than intraregional travel and by 2020 its share will increase from 18% in 1995 to 24%.

Tourism has many fold benefits to us and our environment. In future I will discuss it details for the readers. In very brief, tourism fosters environmental awareness both among locals and visitors. It links to social and economic development. The conservation of natural and cultural heritage of an area as well as to improve the living standards of its inhabitants is the major contributions of tourism. On the other hand, tourism has negative impacts too. Attracting a high volume of tourists can have many negative impacts, as for example the impact of 33 million tourists a year on the city of New York of USA. Tourism has many potential negative impacts to fragile environments.

The environment can be affected negatively by cruise ship pollution in many ways, including ballast water discharge and by pollution from aircraft. Tourism may pollute the local culture and heritage which may induce the crime situation and behavior of the locals. To minimize those negative impacts and increase the benefits of tourism it is very important to practice tourism management specifically sustainable tourism management.

By practicing (sustainable) tourism management, negative impacts of tourism can be tuned into benefits to the local and national economy as well as for the environment.

According to UNWTO, the top 15 destinations absorbed 98% of all international tourist arrivals in 1950, in 1970 the proportion was 75% and this fell to 57% in 2007, reflecting the emergence of new destinations but many of them in developing countries. Visitor expenditure on accommodation, food and drink, local transport, entertainment, shopping, etc. are important pillar of their economies, creating much needed employment and opportunities for development of many destinations. Nearly 80 countries earned more than US$ 1 million from international tourism in 2007. It has been expected that tourism will grow relatively strong in Asia. The region has a fast escalating economy. The growth of demand for services is related to income and in the long run is even higher than that of income. This explains also the growth of tourism over the past 50 years, which may continue in countries such as China or India. In this connection, Bangladesh stands in an important position which has great potentialities in tourism development.

Though tourism and its business are ancient activities but its development and promotion has not yet been carried out. Tourism has been advanced dramatically in the world whereas we lag behind. The geographical position, natural beauties, biodiversity, history, culture and traditions, climate, hospitable people form the basic foundation of tourism development in Bangladesh which are in advantageous position for us. The causes of not developing tourism in Bangladesh are: lack of proper planning for long run, lack of efficient tourism manpower, insufficient government and private sector involvement, security, etc. Now we need proper and long-term tourism master plan based on strong tourism policy by involvement of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) to culture and practice tourism business in our attractive green country. Bangladesh has great potentialities to be an attractive tourist destination for both domestic and international visitors and tourists.

By the way, we can harness the economic, socio-cultural, environmental and institutional manifold benefits of tourism to enrich our country from various corners. Bangladesh may adopt tourism as an instrument for poverty alleviation, environment awareness and education, participation, infra-structure development, i.e., sustainable development.

There are different types of tourism. Some of these types which are prosperous for Bangladesh are: ecotourism, community-based (eco)tourism, pro-poor tourism, mass tourism, ethnic tourism, adventure tourism, religious tourism, historical tourism, etc. Now it is emergent to take effective and practical initiatives to flourish these types of tourism to earn more foreign exchange as well as local and regional development of Bangladesh.

The tourists’/visitors’ decision on selecting any tourist destination can be influenced by six factors i.e., locations, transports, attractions, activities, accommodation and catering services of a given destination. According to SNV (Netherlands Development Organization) there are some pre-requisites which are called 10A’s in short for Sustainable Tourism Development. These 10A’s are: Attractions, Activities, Access, Accommodation, Actors, Amenities, Affinity, Acts, Ability and Administration. We have to study those elements to find out the problems and solutions to make our country a safe, secured and popular tourist destination.

We have not only the largest sea beach Cox’s Bazar and the largest single tract of mangrove forests Sundarbans but also many other natural, cultural, religious and historical sites and attractions which have strong potentialities to be unique selling points for Bangladesh. We have to go far away to reach the standards of tourism but it needs cordial and joint initiatives.

I’m interested on tourism development of Bangladesh and taking higher study in The Netherlands. Now, I’m doing my research on tourism in Bangladesh. I hope to share my knowledge, experience and ideas on tourism to the general and concerned people of Bangladesh to create awareness and motivation on tourism development.

Writer Md. Wasiul Islam

This article is quoted from The New Nation . Follow the link to read the original article published on 2008.11.15.

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

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Posted in Bangladesh, Development, Market knowledge, Performance and management, Sustainability.


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