Tourists sidestep Bangladesh
Bangladesh has remained an unattractive destination for tourists, with the country coming in at No. 125 in a ranking of 136 countries.
The country was the least attractive destination in South Asia for foreign tourists in the 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, which was released by the World Economic Forum recently.
Neighbouring India was ranked 40th, Sri Lanka 64th, Bhutan 78th, Nepal 103rd and Pakistan 124th.
Bangladesh's overall score stood at 2.9 out of 7, which was the same as in the previous edition of the biennial index. In 2015, Bangladesh was ranked 127 out of 141 countries.
"Yes, we are lagging behind other Saarc countries because India, the Maldives and Nepal offer better products and services than us," said Md Rafeuzzaman, first vice-president of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh.
Political instability and the militant attack in Gulshan were the main reasons for Bangladesh not being able to better its position in the latest ranking.
Besides, the country has just gotten into the tourism game, so it would take some time to get more international tourists, he said.
If the political stability sustains and extremism remains under control, Bangladesh will see a good number of visitors by 2018. A total of 125,000 international tourists arrived in Bangladesh in 2015. The sector employed 11.38 lakh people and accounted for 2.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product. The WEF report carries out an in-depth analysis of the travel and tourism competitiveness of 136 economies. It ranks the countries on how well they deliver sustainable economic and societal benefits through the travel and tourism sector.
The report measured each economy's attractiveness through 14 pillars, with each having its own sub-pillars.
"The price competitiveness that favours South-East Asia also benefits countries in South Asia. Yet, South Asia remains less developed on almost all other fronts, in particular on infrastructure, ICT readiness and health and hygiene conditions."
Improving regional visa policies could further enhance travel and tourism, it said.
Spain, France and Germany continue to top the ranking. "But Asia steals the show as the region's largest economies show the greatest rise in tourism-friendliness," the report said. "The rise of Asia's giants shows that the Asian Tourism Century is becoming a reality," said Tiffany Misrahi, community lead for aviation, travel and tourism industries of the WEF.
But to reach their potential, the majority of countries still have more to do, from enhancing security, promoting cultural heritage, building infrastructure and creating stronger visa policies, she added.
The report also highlighted how the industry has become a force for good in an otherwise largely stagnant global economy.
The global travel and tourism sector accounts for 10 percent of the global GDP. It has been growing faster than other sectors and providing one in every 10 jobs.
The policy of the government is not supportive whereas the budgetary allocation for the sector is very poor, said Akbaruddin Ahmad, former president of the TOAB.
"The law and order situation is also not good. Infrastructure is very poor. These are the basic problems." Ahmad said tourists want to visit the Sundarbans and Cox's Bazar but the journey to the two destinations is tiresome. "Had there been an international airport in those places it would have been very comfortable for the tourists to visit the places."
Ahmad also called for branding Bangladesh as a tourist destination. "Tourists don't visit a country just for sightseeing. They want entertainment facilities such as casinos and nightclubs, like we see in Nepal and Malaysia."