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POST TIME: 27 March, 2019 10:24:56 AM
Bangladesh has potentials to be a destination for global tourists
Of late it has been found that this beautiful country with its eye soothing panoramic beauty and enormous cultural and rich heritage can attract foreign tourists
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled

Bangladesh has potentials to be a destination for global tourists

Bangladesh needs huge amount of hard currencies for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Currently the main sources of earning hard currencies for the country are export earnings of the country’s Ready Made Garments (RMG) sector and the remittance money sent by the Bangladeshi Diasporas working abroad and minor other raw and finished commodities exported abroad. These are not enough to meet the development needs of the country. As a result the country has to rely on foreign loans which will stand in the coming year at more than Taka 3 trillion and about Taka 9 trillion including loans taken from domestic sources.

Under the circumstances, it is better for the country to find out more and more avenues for the earnings of hard currencies to halt the increase of the already huge burden of and reduce the burden of and reliance on external loans. Of late it has been found that this beautiful country with its eye soothing panoramic beauty and enormous cultural and rich Buddhist religious heritage can attract foreign tourists. Such tourists’ spots may profusely add to the earnings of hard currencies for the country.

Tourism industry insiders claim that Bangladesh can attract the huge global tourists, mostly from China, visiting countries like India and Myanmar by offering its beautiful places to them as an extended destination of their visits. As proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, China is giving much importance to cross-border tourism under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China provides the biggest outbound visitors in the world these days with 144 million a year. In consequence India is also promoting its Buddhist Circuit to attract tourists from China. On the other hand, Chinese people have been the second biggest tourist players in Myanmar in its popular tourist destinations like Yangon and Mandalay; religious sites in Mon State, Pindaya, Bago and Hpa-An. The other added tourists destinations in Myanmar are ancient cities such as Bagan and Mrauk-U; and as well as beaches in Nabule Ngapal.

Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) maintains that Bangladesh has huge potentials to attract the tourists who are visiting India and Myanmar making Bangladesh an extended destination for them. Both the government and private sector have a role in making it happen so that Bangladesh's tourism sector grows further. What needs now is to remove the hurdles in the way of visiting the country by foreigners. In this direction talking about government's role, TOAB said easing visa on arrival, immigration, customs issues and visa on arrival through sea and land ports can help encourage foreign tourists to take Bangladesh as an extended destination. The private sector players need to have broader engagements with tour operators in India and Myanmar that will help make Bangladesh an extended destination for tourists. Moreover, a new opportunity has opened in the tourism sector through ocean cruise tourists to which Bangladesh needs to give an urgent and serious attention.

The two countries, China and Bangladesh, agreed during Chinese President Xi's October 14, 2016, Bangladesh visit to expand exchanges and cooperation in culture, education, tourism and other fields. And promote interactions among the media, think tanks, youths, women organisations, non-governmental groups and local authorities of the two countries. Bangladesh also sees potential in tourism sector through intra-Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) tourism cooperation. The BIMSTEC Member States in the recently held 4th Summit on August 30-31, 2018 in Kathmandu, Nepal, agreed to take concrete steps to promote intra- BIMSTEC tourism. The Member States will task the relevant authorities to devise strategies considering the emerging opportunities and building on the past initiatives, including the “Plan of Action for Tourism Development and Promotion for the BIMSTEC Region” adopted and reinforced earlier.

The BIMSTEC Member States agreed to take concrete measures to facilitate tourism by ensuring safety and security of tourists, and smooth transport connectivity. They reaffirmed their commitment to developing and promoting Buddhist Tourist Circuit, Temple Tourist Circuit, ancient cities trail, eco-tourism and medical tourism. And welcome the offer of Nepal to host a BIMSTEC tourism conclave in Nepal in 2020, coinciding with the Visit Nepal Year 2020, according to the joint declaration of BIMSTEC summit.

As per Indian Tourism Ministry, it is estimated that there are nearly 500 million Buddhists all over the world. Majority of the Buddhists population live in East Asia, South East Asia and Far East countries. The Bangladesh Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry said that the government focuses sustainable development of tourism in the country.

To facilitate the in coming of the Buddhist tourists, Bangladesh stressed the importance of regional cooperation in the development of strategic tourism resources of the country – such as age old rich Buddhist heritage sights the singe of which is scattered across the country from Cumilla’s Shalban Bihar to Bogra’s Paharpur and others. Apart from these, as said above, the natural panoramic beauty of Bangladesh together with the World’s largest sea beach of Cox’s Bazar is added attraction for global tourists. Bangladesh needs to sufficiently develop these potential tourists’ spots and their approach roads together with tourists’ resorts.  

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General

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