The big picture of Bangladeshi tourism
Since the 1990s tourism has been a small but rapidly growing sector of the national economy, but Bangladesh is still one of the countries in the South Asian region with the least arrivals and the lowest revenue earned from the tourism industry.
Nevertheless, let there be no doubt, national, regional or international; the Bangladesh tourism sector has indeed development potential. Several key stakeholders in the international tourism arena have already highlighted Bangladesh as a desired tourism destination during the last couple of years.
* First, the online worldwide New7Wonders of Nature campaign started in 2007 with more than 440 candidate locations from 220 countries. Represented Bangladeshi locations were Sundarbans, a mangrove forest already nominated a UNESCO heritage site, and Cox’s Bazar, the longest natural beach in the world. By global voting and expert selection the candidates have been narrowed down two times in 2009 to 28 candidates. Sundarbans is still in the competition and voting will continue throughout 2010 and into 2011. The winner of New7Wonders of Nature will be found during 2011.
* Second, Lonely Planet, which is in the world’s absolute leader in publishing travel guides and guidebooks, recommended Bangladesh in 2008 as one of the top ten interesting travel destination in 2009. The nomination argument explains head on what kind of experiences Bangladesh has to offer as a tourism destination: ‘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.’ Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2009, p 6.
* Third, two Bangladeshi travel guides has been published from important international travel publishers.
Lonely Planet published their 5th edition of their 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” (p. 3).
The first Bradt travel guide on Bangladesh was published 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 country introductions goes like this: “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”.
As for the future of Bangladeshi tourism World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), an international business leader forum, has predicted that the contribution of Travel & Tourism to Gross Domestic Product in Bangladesh is expected to rise from 3.9% (BDT265.9bn or US$3,786.4mn) in 2010 to 4.1% (BDT788.4bn or US$8,781.7mn) by 2020. Furthermore Real GDP growth for Travel & Tourism economy is expected to be 1.7% in 2010 and to average 6.4% per annum over the coming 10 years.
Looking at the South Asian travel and tourism status also show future development opportunities as regional inbound tourism is already an important multicountry activity, which is predicted to increase dramatically in the future.
According to an Asian Development Bank report from 2009 inbound tourism from India, Nepal and Bangladesh accounted for 5,7 million arrivals in 2007, which provided a total income of 12,3 billion UD$. In 2007 1/3 of Indian tourists visit a nearby country, primarily India, and 46% of Bhutan tourists also visit Nepal and/or India.
In the South Asian region, including Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, WTTC estimate that the contribution of Travel & Tourism to Gross Domestic Product is expected to rise from 8% (US$136.1bn) in 2010 to 8.4% (US$372.5bn) by 2020. Real GDP growth for Travel & Tourism economy is expected to be 5.6% in 2010 and to average 8.1% per annum over the coming 10 years. The regional forecast rank the South Asia Travel & Tourism economy number: 10 in absolute size worldwide, 10 in relative contribution to national economies and 1 in long-term (10-year) growth.
Tourism is internationally often praised as an effective development tool, especially in rural areas and the developing world. Nevertheless it is important to remember that the presence of tourism in any destination always brings with it environmental and socio-cultural as well as economic impacts. These impacts can be both negative and positive.
The strategy to ensure a future successful tourism industry in Bangladesh should therefore include long term management founded on cooperation, knowledge and sustainable values. A sustainable tourism development, defined by UNWTO as “Tourism that meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future”, would no doubt have a major long-term positive impact in Bangladesh as well as in the entire South Asian region.
The BTTF-2010 tourism fair is indeed a fantastic opportunity to strengthen regional tourism cooperation at all levels as well as discuss how to achieve a sustainable tourism development.
I am convinced that every single tourism professional through his/her actions has an impact on the tourism industry, society and world. But to make a long term positive impact in a big scale will require visionary and united action from numerous tourism stakeholders at all levels. To make this kind of positive development happen, I propose a united sustainable tourism grassroot movement in Bangladesh and South Asia.
The Views On Tourism Project is offered as an online communication platform for all stakeholders related to a sustainable tourism development in Bangladesh and South Asia. Please use the free of cost tourism knowledge and network services to achieve personal success, company goals and a sustainable tourism development.
I wish a successful BTTF-2010 fair to all participants.
Majbritt Thomsen, initiator of The Views On Tourism Project
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This article was first published in the BTTF-2010 Tourism Fair magazine. The BTTF fair was hosted by Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) on the 30th September to the 2ed November 2010 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.
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