Tourism has to be in our development thoughts, all ministries' representatives must be involved
-A Monitor Report
1 Nov, 2017  |
Md Nasir Uddin, CEO, BTB
: Tourism has to be instilled in our development thoughts, it has to be integrated into our policy making, planning process and implementation.
Representatives of all ministries’ should have been involved. Just the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism Board will not be able to promote tourism alone.
Dr Md Nasir Uddin, Chief Executive Officer, Bangla-desh Tourism Board (BTB) while sharing some of his thoughts on tourism with The Bangladesh Monitor, said I think tourism is now progressing on a certain path, a path which should have been taken earlier.
We should have started thinking about tourism and tourists much earlier. Tourism should have been integrally associated with our development thoughts, policy making and implementation, he said.
Dr Nasir said, you name any place_ Cox's Bazar, Sundarbans, Rangamati, Bandarban, Kuakata_ you do not see any reflection of it. Nobody thought of tourism. It only came as an afterthought.
When we think of tourism, we think of a place of natural, historical, architectural or otherwise. Tourism is not so. It has to be integrated in the overall policy making, planning process and implementation.
Had we done so and associated private sector, we would have been able to go much further ahead. Cox's Bazar and other places would then not have seen such a mindless growth. Every attraction would then have looked well planned and not become eyesores.
The local economy would have benefitted, local youths would have been employed or self-employed.
Take the case of Cox's Bazar Airport. Had tourism been in our development thoughts, then the airport would have been developed into an international airport much earlier. Does the approach road to the airport or the roads of Cox's Bazar look as if we are entering into or travelling through a beach city, a tourist city?
Had there been planning, hotels and motels would not have been able to come up so close to the sea beach. There would then have been railway track between Chittagong and Cox's Bazar. At last it (railway connectivity) is going to become a reality. Increased tourist numbers would surely follow, he hoped.
Still there is hope, something can be done, Dr Nasir said as planners, of late, are giving their attention to integrate tourism into development process. There is also an awareness of keeping the beach city clean and Tourist Police has been able to earn the confidence of people.
Take the case of Kamalapur railway station. Can the services provided here, be compared it with those provided at railway stations of capital cities of other countries. Have we been able to ensure normal facilities to the railway passengers? Are there enough seats at the station? You will not be able to find any difference between an airport and a railway station abroad.
Those who are now involved in urban planning, development of cities and city corporation officials, Ministry of Forest and Environment, Ministry of Public Works, Ministry of Communication and Ministry of Railways_ all these ministries are now keeping development of tourism in mind.
Ministry of Environment and Forests has a number of safari parks a well as sanctuaries. Have they ever thought of promoting those as tourist destinations? These can be good tourist destinations, but are we able to see any publicity from their side.
Haor Unnayan Board (HUB) is entrusted with the development of haors. Every haor can be a tourist destination. But people have to live in boats in Tanguar Haor, there is no facility, not even "fresh rooms" there.
If HUB keeps tourism in their (development) thoughts, then things will become easy_ tourism will bloom there along with the development of haors. It is good news that they have taken up the development of haor in Gopalganj to turn it into a tourist destination.
He said, community-based forest management is there. We need to add eco-tourism and 'homestay' component to it and train people of the area, he said, adding it would help employment, lead to poverty reduction. What is needed is keeping tourism in mind.
If everyone does so then I would be able to complete my assigned work on time.
Likewise, if the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare can locate some of its community clinics near the places of tourist attractions, keeping treatment needs of tourists in mind.
Tourist Police are present at some of these places. At other places we have to depend on the Ministry of Home Affairs. They should be inculcated with the idea of providing security and safety to tourists - they must feel they are friends not only of people but also tourists.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a great role to play. Earlier, it was power diplomacy followed by economic diplomacy. Now we can say it is the age of tourism diplomacy. Hopefully, many of our missions are taking up tourism promotion in earnest. They are now requesting us about information materials.
I was very elated when our Ambassador to Turkey informed us about a big upcoming tourism fair in Turkey and that we could participate there.
Use of a word
His advice to the media was to be more tolerant. He said, the country would not have been worse if many events were covered in the way they are. They should be a bit more careful about telecasting events live.
Why do we have to use the word "terrorist." We can term them criminals or miscreants. That's what they are.
Use of this word is not only hampering the promotion of tourism but also hurting the image of Bangladesh as country. It's time to talk positively about the country.
Review of laws
He felt it was time for a review of laws governing BTB and tourism and updating them. The BTB Board has to be given some financial freedom.
When asked about different facilities at places of tourist attraction, he said, indeed there are many places where there is no place to freshen up, no place to sit. He explained that BTB has to depend on government grants, which cannot be spent for development.
Yet last year, I had development works done at 17 destinations through the district administrations.
The system also slows down the work. I have to place everything before the BTB Board, which has to place those before the ministry. In this situation what can you expect neither from a CEO nor from the BTB Board, he said posing a question.
Praising the recent decision on corporate social responsibility (CSR), we now hope to be able to attract substantial funds for the development of tourist destinations.
He said political commitment is there. But some steps have to be taken to attract investments in the tourism and related sectors. Those constructing hotels or motels in a planned manner and following rules and regulations, have to be given tax incentives or tax holidays. Import of vehicles meant for transporting tourists should be made tax-free. Ministry of Finance and National Board of Revenue (NBR) need to extend their cooperative hands.