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Tourism: Untapped potential

Words from Minister, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, Bangladesh

From the experience of countries which has seen considerable growth in tourism, it is found that tourism development is not the job of a single ministry alone. It is a coordinated effort of all the ministries.

Human beings are instinctively curious. From time immemorial people moved from one place to another to know the unknown, see the unseen, discover the undiscovered and go into ecstasies about the newness. With the advent of civilization and technological advancement, the world has become smaller. With the rise of income level, people are being liberated from the clutches of poverty gradually. People of the global village can afford to move easily from one corner to another.

This is why the number of tourist arriving is always rising. In 2010, about $852 billion business has been generated at a high growth rate of 7%, which was 5% in the previous year. In the coming days, it is predicted to witness an even higher growth rate. With the passage of time more and more countries across the world are showing increased interest in tourism, investing bigger amounts and also reaping higher benefits.

In the context of the global scenario, only 1% of global tourism transactions are generated in the Saarc region, where India alone seized almost half of it. 1% of the total business means $10 billion, where Bangladesh earned $78.3 million in the year 2010, which is below 0.01%. Several countries of this region earn much more every year.

It is not at all difficult for Bangladesh to achieve $1billion. We need to ensure that there would be one million tourists arriving per year, and provide facilities so that each tourist spends around $1,000. This target is not too ambitious considering the varieties Bangladesh can offer.

It is good news for Bangladesh that tourists who usually visit the destinations of developed world are now looking for new and unexplored destinations. Saarc countries and surrounding regions, which are less familiar to the world, are getting attention now.
Since the international communities are showing interest, the countries of this region have become eager to foster the tourism industry. Nepal and Sri Lanka, two of Saarc member countries, have declared separately 2011 as Tourism Year in their nations.
South Korea also declared 2011 as Tourism Year. Maldives, Bhutan, India have already started huge promotional and development work in tourism. Besides, countries like Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand etc. and the Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait etc, are spending billions of dollars for the development of tourism and earning benefits out of this industry.

There is expectation among many in Bangladesh that we should keep pace with other countries in developing the tourism sector. The present government initiated some administrative measures.
An inter-ministerial coordination committee, headed by the secretary tourism, was formed. Besides, an advisory committee headed by the minister of tourism, cabinet committee for tourism headed by the finance minister and the national tourism council, the apex committee for tourism headed by the honorable prime minister, have been formed with the aim to coordinate the efforts of all ministers including stakeholders.

A tourism cell has been established in each deputy commissioner’s office with the objective to identify tourist attractions, maintain tourist spots, build infrastructure and ensure overall quality management.
Besides, the cell is responsible in taking necessary measures in providing guide services, transportation and ensuring safety and security to the tourists. The expenditures for these purposes will be earned from the visitors. The excess expenditure, if necessary, especially for development work, is to be borne by the district council funds.

Ministry of local government, rural development and cooperatives will manage to get the allocation from the national budget as per the demand submitted by the district councils. This programme could not be made effective in reality due to a lack of awareness among the concerned officials and stakeholders.

The ministry of tourism is preparing multi-participatory tourism development projects jointly with other ministries like local government, forest and environment, cultural, shipping, etc. Proper allocation of fund is necessary for implementing them.
The survey of the vast areas of Cox’s Bazaar up to Teknaf and St. Martins Island and Kuakata has been conducted, and the preparation of two separate master plans is now in the final stage. A Cox’s Bazaar development authority, under ministry of housing and settlement, is being created for implementing the development work of Cox’s Bazaar.
Authorisation committees have been formed to oversee and guide all development activities in the Cox’s Bazaar area and Kuakata till specific development authorities are formed. It can be expected that tourist facilities will flourish in accordance with the master plans from now on.

It addition, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) has been building some facilities in different places of the country as and when needed, subject to the availability of fund. The website of BPC ( has also been modernised.

The present government has made a pragmatic tourism policy. A new law has been enacted for the preservation of the tourist attractions of the country and also for establishing exclusive tourist zones. A new national tourism organisation, e.g. Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) has been created.

BTB has been constituted with representatives of related ministries and stakeholders from the private sector. This has allowed a closer interaction between governmental agencies and private sectors for an overall development of this sector. A web portal ( is being designed to provide all vital information on the tourism sector. We also declared the year 2011 as the Tourism Year for Bangladesh.

In spite of all this, the development of international tourism in Bangladesh is not satisfactory. The entire government needs to be involved under the leadership of the head of the government.
It is also clear that the endeavour of the government is not enough for the maximum exploitation of the tourism potential. Every stakeholder in business, society and opposition political parties need to be involved too.

In fact, development of tourism is not possible until and unless a social movement, involving the entire nation, can be launched to support it. This is exactly what has happened and is happening in countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, India etc.

Countries that have made remarkable achievement in tourism have witnessed direct involvement and/or patronisation of the head of the government. In addition, tourism has been put on top of the priority list of the government. We in Bangladesh lacked in both.

The reason for this is a lack of national confidence in tourism development potentials and the potential benefits from this sector. As such, it is felt that a practical demonstration has become essential to show the potential and the benefit tourism sector can bring.

We believe that Bangladesh has immense prospect in the tourism sector with its natural beauty, historical and archaeological attractions, architectural structures, local culture and lifestyle, colourful indigenous entities and different festivals. Apart from these, the most enticing proposition of Bangladesh for the tourists is the hardworking, resilient, ever-smiling and hospitable people of the country.
There is no denying that both the public and private sectors have developed different tourist facilities and skilled human resources.

As regards enhancement of tourism facilities, we feel we have enough for the present or even to some extent to meet future demands. New facilities are coming up with the increase of demand. If the demand starts growing fast so will the facilities.

Considering the situation, it is believed that if we can project our country to the international community, we will be able to attract quite a good number of tourists who seem eager to find new destinations.

Projecting Bangladesh in the international electronic and print media is necessary to catch more attention. Moreover, different events in our foreign missions can be done highlighting tourism. Participation in different tourism fairs, arrangement of familiarisation tours, and distribution of printed promotional materials are also crucial.

It is felt that “on arrival visa” should be allowed for the tourists from Saarc countries unilaterally. It may also be considered for other countries from where we anticipate large number of visitors.
Tourism can create a huge employment opportunity and can contribute substantially to the economy. Tourism, thus, can play a vital role in poverty alleviation. The biggest barrier to development of tourism is the lack of trust and the main challenge is to create confidence.

The article is quoted from Daily Star and originally published on 2011-07-15.

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

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

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