The Financial Express

Exploring youth tourism potential

Exploring youth tourism potential

Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation's recent claim that the country has 800 potential tourist spots in total may fill many with incredulity. But the number should be recognised as being official. For it was placed at a Parliamentary Standing Committee Meeting on the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry not long ago. The corporation informed the meeting that the 800 tourist spots had been identified in eight divisions of the country. The divisions are Sylhet, Khulna, Chattogram, Rajshahi, Barishal, Rangpur, Mymensingh and Dhaka.

The meeting appeared to be a serious one. For it was held at a time --- winter, when tourism activities in Bangladesh remain at their peak. Last year, the tourism industry was in a total deadlock thanks to the raging Covid-19 pandemic. The current year shows signs of recovery. With the remarkable drop in corona prevalence, habitual tourists have already started arriving in the popular sites of beaches and hills. Against this propitious backdrop, the parliamentary standing committee meeting was informed that Tk 702 million had been allocated for the Parjatan Corporation (BPC) in the ADP for the FY 2020-`21. The amount would be spent for implementing eight tourism- related projects.

A source at the tourism ministry has said the spots in the eight divisions have been identified by the archaeology department, the water resources ministry, the forest department and the respective deputy commissioners across the country. 

The recreation of tourism has its own features. The chief purpose of the common tourists going to a tourist site is watching nature in a spell of amazement, and collecting rare objects and shopping. The vast seas attract them more than the hills or dense forests. Even educated middle-class tourists demonstrate these traits. However, thanks to the footage of foreign and domestic TV channels, changes in the tastes of tourist preferences have been marked in the recent years. The overhauled itinerary of the educated tourists now include archaeological ruins, lush-green hill ranges, trips to indigenous people's villages and, even, centres of cottage industries.

The tour spectacles are common in Bangladesh. Whenever tourism enthusiasts talk about domestic tour sites, they are found repeating a few names. Most of the general tourists remain confined to these spots. Only a handful of them venture to remain off the beaten track. Unlike people rushing to the Cox's Bazar and Kuakata beaches, and, lately, the Sundarbans, the Chattogram Hill Tracts or the St Martin's Island, the off-track tourists are always in search of least visited and obscure spots. When the routine-bound tourists set out for conventional sites during winter, segments of relatively younger people wait patiently for the spots to turn deserted. At the same time, rolling out the Bangladesh map before them, they engage in the search for veritably unknown spots in the wilderness. To the surprise of them, the country doesn't have any dearth of these places.

There are reasons why Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation can boast of around 800 tourist spots in the country. For Bangladesh, a small territory, and also a deltaic plain land, this number may appear incredible. Few countries have so many tourist attractions. Bangladesh is fortunate to have so many sites. Due to its being ruled by around half a dozen royal dynasties, mostly from outside, Bengal's eastern part bears the legacy of these rules. The prominent of these are the Sultanate, the Mughal period and the 200-year-old East India and the British Imperial rule. There were the Pathans, the Tughlaqs and the India-originated Senas, Palas, Guptas and a few others. Almost none of them ruled Bengal without setting up their socio-cultural and administrative stamps. Most of them have gone extinct due to the assaults of time. Still, many remain in place in the forms of temples, monasteries and ornate, multi-dome mosques. Lately, the tourism authorities have taken initiatives to save them from the attack of the elements --- and preserve them as long as they can manage to stand. Although lots of relics have disappeared, many still stand erect in different parts of the country. People interested in the past are always on the lookout for these sites. Many remain buried under the dust of time. In their massive attempts to identify new tourist spots and renovate the dilapidated ones, the tourism authorities ought to focus on them.

As part of its grand project, the Parjatan Corporation picked eight sites for now. They are Anwara Parky Resort; Bagerhat Motel; tourist facilities and amenities at Kazipur in Sirajganj; Shalna Resort; Study Project of Khurushkul Sheikh Hasina Tower; tourist facilities at Susang Durgapur in Netrokona; facilities at KananDighi in Cumilla; facilities at Gazni in Sherpur. The project also includes capacity building and repair and renovation of Abokash and National Hotel and Tourism Training Institute.

According to a lot of tourism enthusiasts, dozens of idyllic sites have yet to be sufficiently exposed to solitude-loving tourists. The Moulvibazar spots appear to have lately become the only sites worth visiting as part of recreational fun. The tourism potential of the sprawling sylvan area, with a low-depth hilly river flowing by one of its sites, came to the notice of local people around two decades ago. For years, the Moulvibazar spots remained confined to the people living in the nearby areas. It was due to the lack of easy accessibility to the area. Moreover, absence of basic facilities like drinking water and food within easy reach emerged as great bottlenecks for the tourists reaching the spots braving hazardous journeys. But the tourists, nonetheless, began reaching the greater Sylhet spots in droves --- mostly from Dhaka. The Moulvibazar tourist sites have been in a neglected state since their early days. They need serious attention. Lots of daredevil youths reach Moulvibazar's far-flung remote spots braving rough journeys. The authorities can keep these sites reserved for adventure tourism. Susang Durgapur in Netrokona, beside the hilly Someshwaririver, is another such spot.

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