Worldwide corona pandemic is going on. The situation is also the same in Bangladesh. In this time people are bound to live in their home. For the first time in decades people are forced to live inside. The educational institutions are also physically closed during this pandemic. But due to the lengthy closure most people have become frustrated by now. People are badly longing for a trip which can give them pleasure as well as energy.
Generally Bangladeshis travel in the winter season. At this time the weather is friendly and comfortable. So, it is easy to understand why a huge number of people travel during the three or four months of winter in Bangladesh. In the last eight months people got bored of being stuck at home in this pandemic. So, this winter it is expected that a huge number of people will travel for pleasure. Now the question is, are we ready for it as a nation?
Our neighbouring country Nepal's economy is largely dependent on tourism and 40 per cent of their GDP comes from this sector. On the other hand only 2.2 per cent of our GDP comes from tourism. To overcome this situation the government has formed a master plan of 28 crore 60 lakhs to revive the tourism sector of the country. But because of the pandemic it has become difficult to implement. Experts say that the main reason for this failure is not giving much importance to this sector as well as slow processing.
The year 2016 was a government declared tourism year. Government expects that at least 10 lakh foreigners will visit Bangladesh every year. But it never happened. We have the worlds’ longest sea beach yet we can’t attract tourists. The main reason behind it is the lack of trained persons for hospitality management and publicity. Government took a vital step to build a special tourist zone in Cox’s Bazar. The work started in June, 2019. But the progress is not noteworthy.
Let’s take a look at the persisting problems. In 2019 I spoke to an Italian tourist in Cox’s Bazar. She said that it was her first visit to Bangladesh. She praised the longest sea beach as being very beautiful. But she said that the main difference was that she couldn’t fully enjoy the beach. But there were more problems like the people ogling the tourists, sometimes even making them feel uncomfortable. There was a dearth of information. Tourists can’t find a proper tourist guide to hire. Most guides take a lot of money from them. She also spoke about the common problems like roads, dustbins, etc.
Eliza Binte Elahi is a Bangladeshi heritage traveler. She traveled to 49 countries. She says that the mentality in Bangladesh is very narrow. It is quite challenging for a woman to travel solo in Bangladesh. But in other countries it is quite normal for women to tour on their own. And also there aren’t many trained female tourist guides here. Eliza saw a lot of female tourist guides in Nepal.
Accommodation is another problem. Though in popular places there are some good hotels, but in other places there are no secure hotels. An Australian tourist was raped in Cox's Bazar. Also there are a lot of beggars in tourist places like Cox’s Bazar. And another big problem are the local transports. They just wait for the visitors. Normally they take only 100 TK for Cox's Bazar to Kolatoli. But they will take 200 TK from a tourist. If the tourist is a foreigner then they will ask 300 TK. I also spoke to some Russian tourists in Kuakata. They said that this visit to Bangladesh will be their first and last. They came from Dhaka by road, and were aghast that it took four hours for their bus to just cross a river.
Not only in Bangladesh but all over the world people are passing a very dull time. We could attract many tourists with a little effort. This sector is the earning source of 25.32 lakh people. This year six lakh foreigners visited Bangladesh. But there were over five crore tourists in the world, though the current year has been very bad for tourism not only for Bangladesh but also for the world.
But we have to attract people to visit Bangladesh by increasing our publicity. Hopefully, this winter a huge number of people will visit our country. We have to make a proper tourist guideline otherwise tourists cannot be given satisfactory service. We must try to find why tourists are not coming to Bangladesh and what the problems behind it are. We must also ensure the security of tourists visiting the country.
But now is not the time for this debate as we have to think about those people who lost their jobs during this pandemic. If tourists start to come to our country then there will be lots of job creation related to tourism. It is a good time to think about the tourism sector of Bangladesh and make use of this opportunity.
Piash Sarkar, a former student of journalism at DIU