Bangladesh is full of such beautiful places, but we have faited to promote them
Dhaka : Considering all the key elements, tourism in Bangladesh is still having rudderless existence as well as has remained in its infancy. The limited progress that has so far been achieved is because of the efforts of private sector. Now, active all-round government support is needed, to move the tourism to next level.
Since independence of the country 46 years ago and formation of Bangladesh Parja-tan Corporation (BPC), the first national tourism organisation (NTO) a year later, the government surely shown intention to develop tourism in the country.
The formation of BPC was followed, in recent years, adaptation of national tourism policy, and creation of Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) as new NTO and lately declaration of Visit Tourism Year-2016.
These actions manifest good intention of the government in regard to development of tourism. Unfortunately, the real situation is totally different. BPC turned out to be an organisation incapable of being NTO. The National Tourism Policy has remained just a paper document_ with no effort to implement. BTB, the new NTO, is created as an authority less entity with no dynamic professional leadership, manpower and fund to discharge its responsibility properly. And finally, nothing notable happened beyond hosting some PATA and UNWTO events, and declaration of the Visit Bangladesh Year 2016_ as it turned out to be just a fruitless exercise.
No Master Plan yet
For planned development of country's tourism and exploit its potentials, there is no alternative to a master plan and Bangladesh has none to follow to move to specific direction.
Several years ago, Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), the national tourism organisation (NTO), initiated efforts to prepare a new Master Plan for planned development of country's tourism sector. Fairly long time has passed, but there has been no significant progress in this regard.
In the past also similar efforts failed to reach fruition, due mainly to lack of commitment of the government to execute those plans for the development of tourism.
Not very long after the independence, former Yugoslavia helped Bangladesh in drawing its first Master Plan for development of tourism. No effort was taken to implement that Master Plan.
In 1990 a positive step towards the development of tourism in the country was taken with the preparation of a Strategic Master Plan.
Sponsored by the United Nation World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and funded by the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), the Strategic Master Plan was prepared by Messrs Pannel Kerr Foster, an international consulting firm.
What happened to that master plan? Nothing. It gathered dust and has become an out of date and antiquated document.
Thus in more than four and a half decades since 1971, the highly potential tourism sector, received government support mostly on paper, not in reality.
BD yet to recognise
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), insists that international tourism is better positioned than ever to support global development and growth.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the global economy. It is also one of the largest employment-generating sectors in many countries across the world. However, tourists are always extra careful in choosing their destinations. Tourists do not visit a country without getting sure beforehand about what it has to offer and that, too, at what cost.
A safe and secure environment is one of the first priorities for a tourist to look at his or her potential destination. Infrastructural support facilities are also critically important factors. Unfortunately, the policy planners in Bangladesh are yet to fully appreciate the importance of this sector.
It is really unfortunate that despite global recognition, policy makers of the country are yet to agree with UNWTO and recognise importance tourism as a major means for economic development.
Time for action
However, holding the hands of private sector, tourism in Bangladesh has made limited progress. But without strong and active support of the government, the private sector is not in a position to move ahead further and take tourism to the next level.
Shaking off inaction, the government must immediately start working to create a strong foundation for the tourism industry. From accommodations to travel agencies, from tour guides to regulations, every link is to be forged into a strong tourism value chain.
The concerned government agencies must be made to rise up to meet the changing desires of tourists and their expectations in the areas of technology, social media, and cultural and eco-tourism offerings. To meet these challenges, Vision for specific period must be set out a map to achieve innovative and competitive tourism for the country.
Support and guidance
First, Bangladesh must reverse it attitude towards tourism and wholeheartedly support the industry. It may be noted that this far, Bangladesh is one of the very few countries in the world, yet to recognise the importance of tourism, in the development of national economy.
The government must extend support and guidance to the stakeholders_ in regard to financial and technical support mechanisms_ to meet the development needs of tourist facilities.
The support and guidance should also be designed to help tourism stakeholders in marketing tourism products of the country.
Tourism stakeholders should be brought under an umbrella organisation to create opportunity and advantage of the synergy and cohesion among them to help benefit through exchange of experiences among industry professionals. Through networking opportunities, coaching and mentoring can also be introduced.
Needs of tourism enterprises
The Bangladesh tourism sector, has more than ever, needs the backing of a fabric of modern tourism businesses that are structured, competitive, and capable of facing significant qualitative challenges, while at the same time delivering a full range of services aligned to the needs of this time--initially at the three traditional professions - tourist accommodation, tourist transport, and travel distribution.
The current responsible government tourism agencies, at present, have no plan to introduce reforms to govern the professions of the country's tourism value chain. Had there been reforms that in turn would have benefited industry players through a comprehensive and integra-ted support system and allowed the government to address the different needs of tourism enterprises throughout their life cycles.
Bangladesh has a number of top grade virgin tourist attractions, waiting to be discovered and largely unknown to international tourists.
What Bangladesh badly needs now is to give a focused attention to a better exposure of its tourist attractions as well as products, backed up by logistic supports.
So, both public and private sectors will need to work together to help overcome, particularly the infrastructure-related problems, and also to project objectively the country's tourist attractions. While public policy has to be supportive for promotion of tourism, private investments will have to be encouraged more pro-actively to facilitate harnessing of the full potential of the sector.