A large number of Bangladeshi holidaymakers went abroad to spend their time with their families in order to make the most of their leisure time for entertainment during the Eid vacation. At least 0.15 million people were reported to have visited foreign countries during the last Eid-ul Fitr.
Most of the vacationers went to popular Asian tourist destinations like India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and other island nations. Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka are most favourites to travellers for their easiest visa processing options.
Tour operators say it is now impossible to travel overseas without making plans in advance. They say rich Bangladeshi tourists prefer to holiday in Southeast Asia, followed by Europe and the US. The country's political uncertainty and bad infrastructure often force the well-off people to divert their tourism destinations to neighbouring countries.
Local holidaymakers also thronged the country's some of the tourist spots like Cox's Bazar, Srimongal, Kuakata, Sunderbans etc. during this Eid. As there were no political disturbances, local tourists could spend their holidays in those places without any hassles.
However, Bangladesh still remains the least tourist attractive place in South Asia, although the number of tourists travelling to Bangladesh has become double in less than a decade. In fact, a number of reasons, including lack of necessary infrastructure and security for foreign guests, are hindering the development of tourism sector here. The country attracted 588,000 tourists in 2012 that generated income worth US$ 110 million. The amount was only US$ 55 million in 2006 and the number of tourists was 200,000.
With a view to promoting tourism in the country, there should be exclusive tourist zones in Cox's Bazar, Srimangal, Teknaf, Jaflong, Kuakata, Paharpur, Sundarbans, Patenga and Maynamati. Duty-free import of tourism vehicles and other infrastructures may also help promote tourism.
Of late, the government has recognised tourism as an industry. A national tourism policy has also been in place which aims to develop tourism with increased private sector participation. Reports say construction of exclusive tourism zones has been undertaken by the government at Kuakata, Rangamati, Patenga, Khagrachhari, Saint Martin's Island and Bandarban to attract tourists.
A number of private sector tour operators are now active in the country. But the shortage of properly qualified and efficient manpower is causing hindrance to the development of tourism. The problem is so acute that the Bangladesh Partajan Corporation (BPC) has so far not been able to develop attractive tourism products. Experts are of the opinion that Bangladesh has great potential for the development of tourism in general and eco-tourism in the particular.
However, the support from the government that is needed for the development of tourism infrastructure is not up to the mark. In fact, tourism in Bangladesh is still in a nascent stage. Apart from general lack of positive action to develop tourism and total lack of effort to dispel negative image about the country, the sector is suffering from the lack of professionalism.
The importance of tourism as an important instrument for economic development and employment generation, particularly in remote and backward areas, has now been well recognised. Nowadays international tourists visit a place not only to enjoy sightseeing but also to savour heritage and customs. Therefore, destroying or transforming local culture only makes a locality less attractive to the tourists. In fact, there is a need to preserve the country's cultural identity for the sake of tourism sector.
After Cox's Bazar, Chittagong needs infrastructural development. Development of the airport and roads, and an industrial zone in Mirsarai may turn the city into a genuine business capital as well as a regional business and tourist hub. Chittagong has many tourist spots. Apart from Patenga Beach, the Foy's Lake, Ethnological Museum, Zia Memorial Museum, War Cemetery and Cheragi Pahar, there are many places that have the immense potential for becoming new sites for attracting both local and foreign tourists.
It is very unfortunate that in spite of having Cox's Bazar, the world's longest sea beach, Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, and three world heritage sites, the country still lags behind in the race of tourist attractions. Among the South Asian countries, Bangladesh is just above Bhutan in terms of tourist attractions.
In order to promote tourism as a profitable industry, it is imperative to understand the factors that hamper its growth and check them effectively. The country needs to go for an aggressive marketing drive. It is not enough that the country possesses a potential for becoming one of the best tourist destinations in the world. To turn that possibility into reality, imaginative marketing is a pre-condition. In fact, the country needs to learn some lessons from Thailand, Malaysia or even the Maldives on how to do that.
Since tourism has a lot to do with the country's image before the world at large, the government has to play a meaningful role in creating a very positive image of the country and promoting its interesting features. Relevant infrastructures need to be built. The places of historical interest need to be made accessible for welcoming the visitors. The roads leading to those places should be in good order; transports of all modes should be available in plenty and at reasonable costs. Both the government and the private sector should come forward to invest and develop infrastructures and the transport sector.