Development of tourism
It was reported sometime ago that Bangladesh has moved up from its 129th position to 123th position in the latest Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF). This means progress of the country by six points in this area which must be a matter of satisfaction by all concerned. It suggest greater promotional and other activities by both the government and the private sector to this end. However, this achievement ought not to make them complacent also from not doing much more to realize the full potentials of the country from tourism.
Tourism is the fastest growing service industry in the world. Unlike many other economic sectors where foreign currency retention is much less from the need to import raw materials and other paraphernalia to support activities in these sectors such as in the export-oriented garments industries of Bangladesh, retention of foreign currency by a country from tourism can be 90 per cent or more.
From this angle alone, it should be possible to realize the need to exploit the prospects of tourism in Bangladesh which has been able to develop only one world class apparel industry in the last forty-two years of its existence. There are all the opportunities for Bangladesh to reap the bonanza from tourism and open a rich new source of foreign currency earnings for the country, plus create wealth, income and jobs on a large scale provided policies are executed in time.
Millions of foreign tourists visit neighboring India . If only 20 per cent of these tourists who come to India can be persuaded to visit Bangladesh , then the latter can earn some 100 million dollars annually and that too in the short term with possibilities of such income to grow much higher progressively. This would be a big input to its national economy and also a source of significant economic growth.
This is specially so when the private sector in Bangladesh and also foreign investors are showing a great deal of interest to invest in the tourism sector . The guidelines for investment of the private sector in tourism should be declared as the same is indispensable to encourage the mobilization of private investment efforts in the first place.
The development of tourism in Bangladesh essentially involves government’s greater activism by embarking on implementation of plans at the fastest and creating a policy environment to be considered as helpful by the private sector. The activities of foreign missions of Bangladesh and other bodies need to be coordinated with the aim of dispelling negative publicities about Bangladesh. Specially, these strategies will have to be selectively applied to motivate a part of the huge number of tourists who come to India to also come to Bangladesh.
The existence of some world heritage sites in Bangladesh and spots for eco-tourism such as the Sunderbans and Cox Bazar, will have to be highlighted in innovative ways to draw the attention of foreign tourists. Government should decrease the amount of VAT and other charges that tourism related private sector organizations have to pay.
The same concessions and more will increase the net of tourists from both internal and external sources. A short term plan should be executed immediately by the government to improve connectivity to the recognized tourist sites. Infrastructures should be built there and security of tourists ensured.