If you have many innovative ideas and good planning but no money for implementing them, obviously the planning will yield no results. The tourism sector in Bangladesh is more or less like that. There are a lot of ideas and plans, but their implementation is not that tangible in the absence of sufficient budgetary allocation. Of course, we need proper planning. But, at the same time we need money also-maybe, it is foreign direct investment (FDI) or local investment. It is our experience that planning and investment always mismatch here.
In 2013, India made a budgetary allocation to the tune of around US $ 200 million for the tourism sector. In return, it earned US $ 17.97 billion. In the same year Sri Lanka invested US $ 5.0 million and in return its revenue earning was US $ 1.039 billion. Malaysia invested US $ 604 million and earned US $ 20.25 billion. Compared to the statistics of these countries, ours is very insignificant.
It is quite natural that Bangladesh being a developing country may not be capable of allocating a sufficient amount of money for the tourism sector. Hence, it needs foreign investments. Without foreign investments, it may not be possible to take the tourism sector to a satisfactory level. For attracting foreign investment, all concerned both in the public and private sectors should work together. The trade bodies in the private sector like the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and other foreign chambers can work in the area alongside the government. A tourism investment fund may also be created to earn confidence of both local and foreign investors. We need to create a body for providing one-stop services to foreign investors. We should convince the foreign investors that the tourism sector here has all the potentials to yield good profits from investments within a short period. We may create a separate support centre at the Board of Investment (BoI) for foreign investors in the tourism sector. The media also can highlight the positive aspects of the sector.
The Maldives, Malaysia, Thailand and even Brunei have set glaring examples by attracting foreign investors for mega projects. We also can pinpoint the areas that can be opened up to foreign investments. For attracting foreign investors we can organise road-shows, seminars and workshops abroad. Bangladesh's missions abroad should work to that end. At least we can set an annual target of foreign investment in the tourism sector, say, at more than US $ 3.0 million. And we should increase this figure every consecutive year.
We need foreign investment for developing exclusive tourist zones having facilities like international standard hotels, motels, resorts, casino, cable car, lagoon, marina, sea-aquarium, watch tower, etc. If we can attract foreign investments more and more, a good competition will take place here and tourists will get quality services.
The writer is a tourism analyst and works for tourism development in Bangladesh.