The world tourism sector has witnessed a devastating downfall due to Covid-19 as people’s physical movement is restricted even to the shortest of distances. Tour operators around the world have gone through a severe financial crisis. The study of Hoque, Shikha, Hasanat, Arif, & Hamid (2020) has proven it in the context of China. Similar results have been seen in the context of India where a 30% drop in domestic travel has been noticed (Patel, Sharma, Kharoliwal, & Khemariya, 2020). As a result, some of the companies even moved towards a shutdown. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the idea of Edward Huygens, a Professor at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) who campaigned for the idea that tourism may be experienced just in our backyard and surroundings rather than going for long travelling to distant and distinct places, become more relevant than ever before.
As we have seen that the advent of Covid-19 restricts the physical movement of the people and they are mostly confined to their home they look for an opportunity to go out avoiding public contact. During the pandemic, people are expected to visit the nearby areas and also expected to visit private places, maintaining social distancing. Therefore, these alternative modes of tourism become more relevant. It will be more attractive if the tourist places or any kinds of attractions or any leisure activities spots are located in a nearby neighbourhood. The tourism industry will have adapted to this new situation and will have to come up with new concepts and services to make people feel good in their neighbourhood. However, entrepreneurs would face real challenges in creating such places in busy urban hubs, which may create a sense of relief amongst us. Greenery, fresh air, well-maintained and unspoiled habitats, seating arrangement for small groups, open space, food carts, open-air music and even small shops may entertain urban dwellers. The day-long gathering of people around the rail stations in Tokyo is a prime example of everyday tourism. Dhaka city parks, if maintained properly, would surely amuse many visitors. The mere open space in front of the imperial palace in Tokyo is considered a unique tourist spot because of its serenity. Our Ramna Park could be such a source of tranquillity for the city dwellers.There are several tourist spots in Dhaka city that can offer these sorts of short-distance day-long tours. For example, we have a Jal Jungle Kavya located at Pubail in Gazipur district. If you want to get out of city life and enjoy the open rural environment, there is no more beautiful place than this. It is built on an area of about 90 bighas. We also have the Sonargaon Folk Art Museum, located in Panam Nagar of Narayanganj district near Dhaka. Folk art fairs are held here in winter for months. The gates of the museum are open every Friday to Wednesday from 10.00 am to 5.00 am. The ticket price is less, only 20 taka per person. Then there is Padma Resort on the banks of river Padma in Louhajang Upazila of Munshiganj. Those who are looking for an eye-catching view of the river bank and Kashaful can come here. You will reach by car in 2 hours from Dhaka. Inside the cottage, there are restaurants, river cruises, and huge sports venues. Bangabandhu Safari Park is another popular tourist sport near Dhaka. It is just 5 km west of Bagher Bazar on the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway. The park has five sections - Core Safari, Safari Kingdom, Biodiversity Park, Extensive Asian Diversity Park and Bangabandhu Square. Apart from that, we also have Jamuna Resort, near the Jamuna Bridge. In addition to tourist accommodation, there is a swimming pool, sports facilities, gym and other facilities inside. It will cost 4000 Taka per person. Besides, the resort offers a variety of packages for various festivals. You can visit Nikli Haor in Kishoreganj to get a touch of soothing nature in an open environment. From Dhaka, you can go by bus or train to Kishoreganj town, from there you can go to Nikli Ghat by CNG. Rent a boat from the ghat and visit Haor. Remember, the end of the rainy season is the best time to visit Haor. These are just a few examples. There are many more places like Dream Holiday Park, Nakshi Palli, Jinda Park, etc. All of these locations are destinations for short, day-long tours as they are close to the city. Even though we only discussed spots near Dhaka, almost all cities have such tourist spots near them.
The socio-economic realities of our country, however, are not favourable to develop these kinds of tourism. The establishment of recreational spots around Dhaka city may be possible, but their maintenance would be difficult in long run. Furthermore, Bangladeshi families are traditional and do not let their children especially the daughters to travel on their own due to safety and security concerns. Therefore, entrepreneurs, regulators, and other authorities concerned should take those factors in their consideration while developing such urban recreational spots. Options of community tourism are not only relevant for urban areas but also for the semi-urban and rural communities. People can visit nearby tourist spots within or close to local communities. It would be convenient as it would be both time and budget efficient. It is expected that these types of tourism practice would eventually be considered the alternative mode of tourism and sustain due to their cost-effectiveness.
The writer is an Associate Professor, Dept. of Management, North South University.