The newly emerging and already existing char areas of Bangladesh can fruitfully contribute to the initiative of ecotourism – opening door to a potential industry – also in earning some of the revenues that the country does through the sector of tourism in general.
Several island areas, more commonly known as ‘char,’ have been arising in the proximity of Chittagong, Noakhali, Barisal, Khulna and many other southern areas of Bangladesh.
The Irrigation Support Project for Asia and the Near East (ISPAN) study indicates that the chars that are not eroded in the first four years of their emergence could be used for either cultivation or settlement by the end of these four years.
The fourth phase of the Char Development & Settlement Project (Char Unnayan & Basati Sthapon Prakalpa) has been approved by Jatiya Orthoinoitik Nirbahi Committee on 24 July 2020.
Unlike the chars in a braided river, the chars in the Upper Meghna river are stable, acting almost exclusively as island chars. Most of these are more than 70 years old, consisting of 38 per cent of the total area within the banks.
Every year new lands are arising, consisting of about 70 thousand hectare areas in the coastal zone of Noakhali. Many of these are now partially occupied by local residents, some are still uninhabited.
It is to be mentioned that the contribution of travel and tourism to GDP for Bangladesh was only 4.4 per cent in 2020. The World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report states Bangladesh was at the bottom of the tourism sector among all Asian countries in 2019.
Currently, Bangladesh has gone down to the 114th position from the 104th position in the list of tourist-friendly countries. Initiating tourism opportunities in the chars can unveil a new opportunity for Bangladesh to uplift itself to a top position in the tourism sector.
According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment and sustains the well-being of the local people. Simply, ecotourism is travelling while ensuring an unscathed ecosystem and promoting the livelihood of local residents.
The United Nations World Travel Organisation estimates that in 2007, ecotourism captured 7 per cent of the total international tourism market. According to the report published by Allied Market Research, the global ecotourism market garnered USD 92.2 billion in 2019 and is estimated to generate USD 103.8 billion by 2027, holding a CAGR of 2.5 per cent from 2021-2027.
More than 60 per cent of coral reefs have been bleached to death at Saint Martin’s Island. The lives of multiple fish species and other animals are at stake. Global warming and the effects of climate change have now gradually swept over.
Summers are sweltering, winter doesn’t feel that cold anymore, and these are only so many of the repercussions. Nations worldwide are concerned about minimising the stated problems and ensuring sustainability throughout the venture.
If the inhabited chars are considered as well as other ones, ecotourism can be ensured from the base point of the system in all cases of tourist accommodations, transportation, waste management, and the well-being of the locals.
Since ecotourism can be conducted with a low-cost operation with a yield of a higher turnover rate, the initiation of a project with the following objective in mind is highly unlikely to go in vain.
A well-managed promotion of ecotourism throughout the populace is also a necessity for better implementation of the task.
Recent research conducted by Melissa Clark, Paul Clark, and Michael Latta from Coastal Carolina University shows a survey regarding how coastal ecotourism can be promoted among millennials. Millennials comprise a large segment of the tourists and the promotion of ecotourism among them thereby will bring forth a tangible effect.
For the tasks of gathering and sharing information, it is found through the survey that the respondents are prone to pay attention to destination, attractive reviews, and reviews posted on social media.
Better and more interactive designs for websites providing more relevant and current information is a plus point in this case. Besides, creating off-season events and contests communicated through online guides can also be initiated.
Ecoutourism markets should consider budget-friendly travel options for milennials and can even potentially partner with universities to provide service learning opportunities, marketing internships, etc.
There are so much possibilities with the future of ecotourism and marketing, only if it can be leveraged with proper planning and measures from the right authority.