“It’s better to travel well than to arrive,” Lord Buddha.
The global Tourism industry that witnesses a great devastation by pandemic Covid-19 has started to bounce back following the withdrawal of lockdown. In some countries it is moving ahead cautiously and in some it is at a slower pace. Nonetheless, the tourism industry is turning around. Tourism industry, owing to its innate nature, can turn around rapidly, if it gets a congenial environment. The industry has embarked on thriving again in Bangladesh since the government issued a green signal on August 19 for reopening of tourist spots. At present, the industry is witnessing a glimmer of hope especially due to the growing number of domestic tourists in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has undertaken some plans and programmes in line with the theme. Some projects are being implemented underlining the designated theme of this year. It is well-known that Bangladesh has emphasised inclusive growth in its recently-formulated 8th 5-Year Plan, the perspective plan and in the Delta Plan underling the SDG targets. Bangladesh is committed to achieving SDGs by 2030. Tourism has already been recognised by the United Nations as an important sector in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving SDG-1 (poverty alleviation), SDG-5 (gender equality), SDG-8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG-10 (reduction of inequality) have linkages in multiple ways to the tourism industry. Tourism industry substantially can contribute to the achievement of every goal of the SDGs. Therefore, in order to ensure the welfare of all participation of the people in the implementation of the tourism project have to be undertaken. The views of the local people have to be taken into consideration. The sustainable use of local resources and optimal utilisation of resources must be ensured among the local population. We must ensure that the benefits cascade down to all in the society. Tourism development issues have to be linked and reflected in the presently being implemented election manifesto of the government – ‘Transforming villages into Towns. Recreational services need to be extended to the villages through development of the tourism industry. We need to ensure participation and equal opportunities for all in the tourism industry. In addition, inclusiveness in the tourism industry has to be ensured by protecting rural history-tradition-customs and especially the culture of all indigenous and ethnic groups.
Tourism is the fastest growing and single largest industry in the world today. According to the UNWTO, one out of every ten employed-people in the world is involved in the tourism industry. In other words, ten percent of the world's employed population is getting the opportunity to earn their livelihoods in the tourism industry. The participation of women worldwide in this industry has also notably increased. According to the Commonwealth statistics, one out of every four youth globally is involved in tourism activities. Tourism industry, especially domestic tourism is also booming as expected in Bangladesh. The tourism industry is the primary industry of all industries. Because it is directly and indirectly associated with 220 sectors.
Tourist attractions are scattered in all districts and Upazilas of Bangladesh. If we can offer proper packages of rural history, archaeology, folklore, traditional food, boat rides, local sports, traditional cakes, etc as tourist attractions, then participation of all kinds of people in the tourism industry will be ensured. When this participation is tangibly ensured, we can say that Tourism for Inclusive Growth is taking place. Only the tourism industry can highlight the immense beauty of all kinds of history, tradition, typical food and Bangla dialect of each district. The community tourism project has to be implemented in the whole country to present those to tourists. All the 64 districts of Bangladesh possess their own unique features. Under the kind direction of the Honourable Prime Minister, each district administration is branding its own district, portraying its own uniqueness in collaboration with a2i. Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation has already identified 1,700 tourist attractions across the country. Branding activities of these attractions will be carried out in phases through a2i. Given that tourism attractions are spread all over Bangladesh, local people around these sites need to be motivated to engage and earn livelihood through tourism activities. Active participation of local people in the tourism industry is sine qua non. As for instance, the active participation of people dwelling around Paharpur world heritage site at Badalgachi of Naogaon, Mahasthangarh of Shibganj in Bogra, Kantoji Temple at Kaharole of Dinajpur, Sixty Dome Mosque under Bagerhat and the Sundarbans in Satkhira and Khulna districts need to be encouraged to engage in various tourism activities for their livelihoods. The glaring activities may be tour guiding, preparing and selling of local food, exhibiting local handicrafts, organising traditional cultural programmes and sports, etc. We need to develop community-based leadership (CBL) and organisations (CBO).
Tourism has been stagnant for the past one-and-a-half years due to Covid-19 pandemic. Now tourism is seen reopening cautiously in Bangladesh as elsewhere in the world. Number of employees is gradually increasing and thus income is on an upward trend. Inclusive tourism has to be underpinned in line with the SDGs so that benefits reach the local people of all ages, classes and ethnicities. We will be able to achieve SDGs by 2030, if we can undertake short, medium and long term tourism programmes focusing on the equal participation and due benefit of all in the society.