Not many people are aware that the right to holidays has been given due recognition in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But recognition alone cannot provide momentum to a people's culture of holidaying. Wealth creation certainly helps raise the standard of living and at a certain higher level, people feel the urge to see places and spend their spare money on fulfilling such a desire for attractive destinations.
A growing middle class worldwide has boosted this economic sector at a phenomenal pace. From a meagre size of 25 million of tourist arrival the world over in 1950, it grew to 1.2 billion in 2015. This is without the domestic tourism which has all the making of greater robustness, particularly in the emerging countries like Bangladesh.
Revenues earned from international tourism also went up exponentially to $1260 trillion in 2015 from a paltry sum of $ 2.0 billion in 1950. Most likely both arrival figure of international tourists and revenue earned by host countries have grown further over the past 20 months. Tourism accounts for 10 per cent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) and one in 10 jobs globally, according to reports.
This year's theme for the World Tourism Day is sustainable tourism for development. It is quite natural that such a theme has been highlighted from a concern for the environment particularly in the context of global warming. Already some countries have learned the hard way what uncontrolled and ill-managed tourism can cost. The message is especially important for Bangladesh where domestic tourism is growing and explosive selfie culture threatens to undermine respect for pristine Nature, tradition, history and anthropological heritage.
Many among domestic tourists are simply rowdy elements who indulge in frolicking without being mindful to the sanctity of the places and other people's sensitivity. Right to holidaying has turned anarchic simply because responsibility is lacking in many of the domestic tourists who think they are at liberty to do whatever they like in exchange for money. Unless tourism develops into a healthy culture domestically, it is futile to expect drawing international tourists.
A Bangla contemporary has lamented that Tajmahal is the face of India so far as tourism is concerned. The Himalayas' Everest stands for Nepal, so does the Eiffel Tower for France and the Statue of Liberty for the United States of America. Bangladesh has a number of such unique -in fact the only one -emblems and yet no icon like those. The Sunderbans with its Royal Bengal Tiger, the longest sea beach in the world at Cox's Bazar and the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban with its marvellous architecture can each vie for the iconic laurel, contends the report carried in that newspaper.
Maybe, they can. But the complaint is that no attempt was ever made to project such an image for any of these over the past 46 years. Many nations do not have the Everest, the pyramids or the Great Riff Barrier. But still tourism has flourished there. In some of the Latin American countries like Peru, Argentina and Perto Rico there are streams of tourists. Most people in this part of the world are not even aware of the diversity of destinations and wonders await them there. They have preserved Nature with the minimum interference for presenting it before visiting foreigners.
Cox's Bazar is more than a chaotic bazaar where it is impossible for any foreign visitor to enjoy the serenity of the beach in peace. Maintenance of the beach area leaves much to be desired. Anyone loving peace and tranquillity of the environment will think twice before visiting Cox's Bazar sea beach. The Sunderbans could indeed be the place to visit for foreign tourists. Here is a mangrove that is unique and its most famous inhabitant, the Royal Bengal Tiger could provide for the diversity foreigners so appreciate. But tour operators to the place are yet to know what exactly should be the arrangements for such discerning tourists. It is not just comfort they want but they really look for smooth journey and sight-seeing within the forest.
Next come Rangamati and Bandarban, each of which presents excellent panoramic views -one with expanses of backwater comparable to Kochin's and the other with some of the breathtaking picture-perfect scenic hill sights. With the army engaged in construction of roads there, the journey has improved a lot. But this alone cannot tempt foreigners to visit those places. It is a long journey from the capital and accommodation facilities are not up to the mark. Most irritating is the rusticity on the one hand and threat of cheating, snatching and robbing on the other that deter foreign tourists from embarking on trekking or similar other expeditions.
Tourists love challenges but they hate deception and intrigues. There is need for promotion of a place but the best promoters are the tourists themselves. If there is an unforgettable experience, they share it with others through writings, conversations and discussions held with co-travellers. Now travelling in Bangladesh has definitely improved but it still remains pedestrian. Foreigners who visited Bangladesh earlier had little to recommend. If they visited now, they could possibly form a different view. The challenge lies for the Parjatan corporation to debunk the earlier notion in favour of a better and more receptive Bangladesh.
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