22 days ago

Post-corona prospects for tourism

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Now that the world can muster the confidence of declaring itself Covid-19 pandemic-free, it is increasingly being found in its elements like 2/3 years back. Festivals, jubilations, pageants etc are once again normal happenings. Bangladesh is no exception. It could be experienced in its holding of the three-day Travel and Tourism Fair 2023, which concluded on March 4. Participated by ten countries from Asia, it was organised by the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh.

The countries that participated in the fair included many which are considered seasoned in the tourism sector. India, Nepal, Maldives, Japan and Thailand are traditional destinations for the Asian tourists. Almost all of them have long been contributing to their national exchequers in their own ways. Of them, Maldives and UAE are relatively new entrants. The case for Bangladesh remains unclear, notwithstanding the fact that the country has long been publicised as a land with huge tourism potential. A river-filled alluvial country, a long coast of the Bay of Bengal in the south and south-east, newer features of its attractions continue to be revealed with the passing of years. In terms of tourist resources, Bangladesh can be compared with many other countries in South Asia. This fact stands in stark contrast with the revenue earning prospects for the country's tourism. All this stems from the unaccountability of revenue generation in the different sectors of the tourism industry.

According to tourism enthusiasts in the country, Bangladesh is losing a large portion of its tourism-related earnings thanks to their small size. Meanwhile, newer tourism attractions keep being added to the Bangladesh sites. It's being seen in the northeastern swathes of the country's greater Sylhet district. With the infrastructure development still in the makeshift stage, unscrupulous elements weigh in to exploit the benefits of the future tourism in the vast area. Being located in the outlying and largely inaccessible areas, people with ulterior motive once ruled the roost in those areas. Their vestiges are still there. In spite of the continued explorations of the newer spots, few emerge as worth visiting. Perhaps few countries in the Asian region allow their valuable tracts of nature to be grabbed by syndicates in this blatant manner. Thanks to the mindless encroachments on the Sundarbans' rich biodiversity and the pristine nature, the nearly fabled tourist spot has lost a major part of its beauty. People once used to visit the world's largest mangrove forest in droves. The adversities, natural or law and order related, eventually discouraged these once sought-after visits.

Exposure of any foreign country with tourism potential enhances fraternal relations. The three-day Dhaka Tourism Fair deserves plaudits for organising this event. Yet there have been a few contradictions. The most prominent of them was the relatively less focus shed on Bangladesh. This may amount to a discouragement to those always active in upholding the Bangladesh tourism case. Notwithstanding the lack of correct data on the country's tourism sector, it is widely accepted that Bangladesh tourism is coming of age. A couple of decades ago, it was only the middle class people who would relish the delight of domestic tourism. In course of time, both the middle and lower-middle classes entered the scene. With the widening of the tourism spots from the sea beaches to deep forests in the CHT to Sylhet's hilly rivers, the tourists found a wide array of choices of spots worth visiting. Thanks to the indomitable spirit of the youths, hitherto hidden spots were brought to light i.e. interested people's notice. In spite of all this, the country's tourism sector still remains disorganised and filled with many hiatuses. It's high time the area was streamlined as a formal sector.

Investments are being made in the tourism related infrastructure like multi-storey hotels, motels, resorts, river and seaborne vessels and many other amenities. Many, however, call these infrastructures, especially the hotel accommodations, ill planned and insufficient. Some of them have been built in defiance of legal provisions. The whole scenario prevails mainly at the Cox's Bazar tourist spot. Despite its start a long time ago, Kuakata, the second beach of the country, has begun coming up only lately. Its pace of work gained speed only in the recent couple of years. What plagues these bursts of work is the lack of professionalism. It is, however, one of the major drawbacks in the Bangladesh tourism sector. Thanks to the country's location near India, an internationally reputed tourist site, Bangladesh at times pales beside this global tourism hub. In order to draw overseas tourists, Bangladesh ought to follow new ways and strategies including those adopted by the other Asian countries. The world is moving fast. Tourists do not remain content with watching the blue waters of the sea, sunsets and sunrises, or bathing. But it's also worth keeping in mind; in spite of the country's lofty dream of finding itself among many fast developing countries, it cannot extricate itself from its socio-cultural moorings. It cannot reject the social imperatives. As a way out, it can pick a middle path.

The Bangladesh sea waters are veritably off-limits to water-skiing and many other water sports. According to tourism experts, without the global standard of wildlife watching or outdoor amusements, tourists from home and abroad cannot be drawn also to the forests, or, for that matter, any other spots. The attraction of the Sundarbans could be increased manifold by making arrangements for the tourists' overnight stay there. There are myriad scopes for improving the situation. It's after two long years mankind is enjoying time in the corona-free world. The time should be considered an occasion for tourism's rebirth.


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