Bangladesh has graduated from LDC and dreaming of middle income status within 2021. It is bordering India on the west, north and east, Myanmar on the south-east and the Bay of Bengal lies in the south. This focal position can be centre of exemplary eco-friendly tourism for the rest of the world.
Eco-friendly tourism ensures economic viability, ecological sensitivity and cultural appropriateness. It is sustainable form of natural environment based tourism that combines environment with economy and minimises harmful impacts, focuses on local culture, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth as well as learning new ways to adapt to our vulnerable planet. Bangladesh enjoys a most favoured position, being easily accessible from many popular destinations in South Asia.Bangladesh is a country with rich traditions, natural beauty, sunny beaches, incredible green forests, lakes, hills, wild life, archaeological attractions, monuments, handicrafts, sanctuaries, cultural heritages, tribal culture and architecture, mighty rivers and attractive river cruises, colourful tribal life and attractive cultural functions that offer great tourist attractions.
Bangladesh Economic Review-2010 states that Bangladesh has basically three sectors for generating revenue: industry, agriculture and service. Tourism is a part of service sector. Though the contribution of tourism to GDP was only 7 per cent in 2004-05, it increased to 9.44 per cent by the year 2009-10. It decreased in 2014 to 4.1 per cent of total GDP and in 2015; tourism contributed 4.7 per cent to the total GDP.
Eco-tourism is important with regard to global climate change as well as environment and development conflict. It is an essential understanding of the tourism oriented third world countries as it actively contributes to the protection of natural and cultural heritage of native populations in its planning and development. If eco-tourism is made economically viable, the facilities and services required by most eco-tourist will be provided and potential economic benefits of eco-tourism for both industry and local residents can be achieved.
If the environment and its treasures are maintained, the resource base of eco-tourism will be developed. If eco-tourism is culturally acceptable and local people get benefit from its existence, they will welcome eco-tourism. In order to make these aspects more effective towards sustainable eco-tourism development, the current situation calls for ‘sustainable infrastructure’ and implementation of effective marketing strategies through integration of environmental concerns in all the socio-economic development practices of the country.
Some eco-tourism areas are:
Cox’s Bazaar with the longest sea beach in the world is the tourist capital of Bangladesh. The shark-free beach is good for sun-bathing and swimming. The breathtaking beauty of the setting sun behind the waves of the sea is captivating.The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest in the world. Two-thirds of the Sundarbans is in Bangladesh. The South, East and West Sundarbans are three protected forests in Bangladesh. Sundarbans mean beautiful forest in Bengali and is the natural habitat of the world famous Royal Bengal tiger, spotted deer, crocodiles, jungle fowl, wild boar, lizards, monkeys and an innumerable variety of beautiful birds. Wildlife photography is an important part of eco-tourism, including photography of the wildlife, boating inside the forest, peace and tranquility in the wilderness, nature study, meeting fishermen, wood-cutters and honey-collectors, etc.
National Botanical Garden was established in 1961 and is located to the eastern side of National Zoological Garden at Mirpur with a total area of 84 hectares.
Rangamati is a wonderful repository of scenic splendours with flora and fauna of varied descriptions. The township is located on the western bank of the Kaptai Lake. Rangamati is a favourite holiday resort because of its beautiful landscape, scenic beauty, lake, colorful tribes, its flora and fauna, tribal museum, hanging bridge, homespun textile products, ivory jewellery and the tribal men and women who fashion them.
Bandarban is regarded as one of the most attractive travel destinations in Bangladesh. Its resources can attract tourists from all over the country or even from abroad. Nilgiri is a famous tourist place here. Notably Bandarban is the house of the three highest peaks of Bangladesh.
Khagrachari is also known as Phalang Htaung or the Mong Circle. Khagrachari is a valley. It has three rivers namely Chengi, Kasalong and Maini. Most of the land of Khagrachari is hilly areas. Its resources can attract tourists from all over the country or even from abroad.
Now is the time for eco-tourism promotion. Advertising is a non-personal form of mass communication and offers a high degree of control for those responsible for the design and delivery of the advertising message. Different tourist attractions of the country can be advertised on TV, Radio, newspaper, journals or magazines using persuasive messages to attract potential visitors. Both the home country media and foreign media can be used to deliver the messages. For example: Some persuasive and attractive advertisements like “Beautiful Bangladesh” can be prepared and presented in broadcast media. Also, sales promotion, personal selling, public relations, direct marketing, interactive marketing can be important instrument for eco-tourism promotion.
Apart from that, applications of geographical information systems (GIS) are very important for marketing eco-tourism. By the use of these systems, concerned authority can easily sell eco-tourism products, show geographic location, assimilation of plants and animals, explain geo-demographic characteristics and put in plain words about cultural variety and the socio-economic condition of indigenous peoples.
Bangladesh can be an eco-tourist hub if government and local people work together. It is important to mention that, host communities need to work together on addressing any existing socio-cultural conflict to project better image of the country. Time has also come to utilise information technology in promotional activities to promote specific eco-friendly regions, allocate more promotional funds, promote Bangladesh through foreign tour operators, ensure more discounted offers for group tours and longer stays and particularly give directions for further research on eco-tourism strengths of Bangladesh.
Shishir Reza, Environmental Analyst, Bangladesh Economic Association
Sharmin Akter, Urban Planner, Bangladesh Institute of Planners