Unlocking the tourism potential

Unlocking the tourism potential

The country's tourism sector is yet to be developed to the desired level despite immense potential for its improvement. The cities and towns lack quality accommodation facilities, decent public transports, safe and secured roads, well-equipped hospitals, and access to clean water and hygienic foods

The people in general are, in fact, yet to fully understand the value of the tourism sector and that of the tourists. Among the problems facing the sector, lack of modern recreation facilities, promotional activities, traditional weather forecasting techniques, lack of sufficient safety and security system etc. are most prominent ones in this connection.

There is no denying that the tourism industry is well-known as a complete set of activities and services that deliver transportation, accommodation, food, shopping, entertainment and hospitality services. All these activities can enhance the economic development process by creating jobs, developing infrastructure and entrepreneurial skills, improving balance of payments, earning foreign exchanges and export revenues.

Bangladesh, located at the connecting point of South and South East Asian countries, is home to the longest unbroken sandy sea beach in Cox's Bazar and the biggest mangrove forest in Sundarbans in the world. The country has bountiful resources to offer to both local and foreign travellers with its scenic beauty, ethnic diversity, unique cuisine, rich heritage and historical sites, profound religious sentiments and much more.

Except a good number of hotels and motels built under private sector initiatives, Cox's Bazar does have a few products to offer to the tourists. Proper planning was not followed in building these hotels. The so called 5-star and 3- star hotels are there in name only, but facilities to attain such status are grossly meagre. Some so called 3-star hotels even do not accept credit card and have no WiFi facilities.

Sea beaches, except some big umbrellas set up by cell phone companies, have very little to offer. A few life buoys on the coast are available, but those are not adequate. Coast watch towers are mostly seen without watchers. Speed boats for sea-surfing facilities are hardly available.

One wonders why the long beach stretching from Cox's Bazar to Himchhari and Inani is not being taken up for making it a landmark tourist spot. Panoramic and serene beauty of these seaside places speak of huge potential of attracting tourists.

The country's tourism sector suffered a setback a couple of years back due to the terrorist attack at the Gulshan cafe. Since then, arrival of foreign tourists has declined considerably. In a proposal, Tour Operators' Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) urged the government to make the foreign missions and embassies active in the tourist generating countries to disseminate positive messages regarding Bangladesh for restoring the confidence of the tourists.

With a view to attracting more tourists, the country is now developing an exclusive tourism park at Sabrang in Teknaf. The Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) started work on the project recently. But it is now facing a some challenges on its way to successful implementation.

Since the site is vulnerable to flood and storm surges, the developer or authorities are compelled to bear high expenses for constructing embankments and landfills. A lack of urban infrastructure, such as telecom, water and power supplies and water treatment systems, is one of the major challenges to setting up the tourism park.

The tourism park is being set up on about 1,027 acres of land. It is expected to create employment opportunities for about 25,000 people. The government claims that the park would be the first of its kind in Bangladesh and help attract not only tourists, but also investment from both home and abroad.

The country should go all-out to recoup its losses it had suffered after the Gulshan café attack. In fact, sustained demand for tourism, coupled with the industry's ability to stay resilient in the face of shocks, continues to underline its great significance and value as a key sector for economic growth.

In the circumstances, there is a need for doubling efforts by the government to overcome the problems of tourism sector and make it attractive with all available facilities. Everybody needs to work sincerely for the sustained growth of the sector.   

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