This paper last Tuesday carried an item that exposed the lack of basic amenities in our tourist spots. A group of tourism observers including foreigners, were taken to various spots in the country under the sponsorship of the Bangladesh Tourist Board (BTB), the implementation apparatus of the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation. Apart from other things, almost everybody in the group came up with the opinion that the sites lacked an elementary sanitary facility like good and usable toilets. We have been boasting of mega projects in the recent past, but absence of clean and usable toilets tells that there is something fundamentally flawed in our tourism planning. Oblivious of the highly sophisticated nature of the business called tourism, the recreational educative and energizing aspects of it are lost on tourism planners.
Less than a million foreigners come to Bangladesh every year, not a big number by any means. But according to figures available, less than two per cent of that figure has to do with tourism. However small this number is, one tourist coming here creates several jobs. We must tap into the vast unrealised potential through a synergy between domestic and international tourism, the former having made considerable headway. The country is now amid a noticeable construction boom. Mega projects in road, bridge and port sectors are being implemented. All these when completed, are likely to add value to and greatly enhance the country's attraction as a tourist destination.
The recent calls by the President and the Prime Minister to make all out efforts for the development of tourism in the country may be kept in mind. Indeed, Bangladesh is one of the very few countries in the world that prides itself on a rich past dating from the pre-Islamic times through its Hindu and Buddhist legacies. Bangladesh can boast its Buddhist heritage, with the Paharpur and Shalban Bihars being priceless assets waiting to be connected to the international tourist's calendar and destination. There are many more to be brought to the fore with embellishments. The Sundarbans in the country's south-west, already on international heritage list, needs to be further explored and made accessible from a modern tourist's viewpoint. The rich and varied culture of our hills people attracts domestic tourism immeasurably. All these need to be upgraded with modern facilities and lines of communication.
It is good to hear from the Bangladesh Tourist Board that it has been calling upon the government for allocation of necessary land beside the ongoing mega projects for development of tourist amenities. The BTB along with the government can also prepare a mega project that will look after all aspects of the tourists' satisfaction- food, accommodation, sanitation, entertainment, communication and above all whet the appetite for eco-tourism. The country has enough resources now to provide for a holistic mega tourist project that encompasses all the aspects of catering for tourism, both domestic and international. It is better to start right away rather than procrastinate on a disjointed approach.