Sakib B Amin
Chowdhury Saima Tabssum
The tourism industry is well-known as a composite of activities and services that deliver transportation, accommodation, food, shopping, entertainment and hospitality services available for the travelers. All these activities can enhance the economic development process by creating jobs, developing infrastructure and entrepreneurial skills, improving balance of payments, earning foreign exchanges and export revenues. The sustained demand for tourism, coupled with the industry's ability to stay resilient in the face of shocks, continues to underline its great significance and value as a key sector for economic development.
In fact, tourism has emerged from being a relatively small-scale activity into one of world's largest industries since 1960s and onwards. The United Nations has identified the development of tourism as one of the methods poorer countries might use to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Bangladesh, being located in the connecting point of South and South East Asian countries, is home to the longest unbroken sandy sea beach (Cox's Bazar) and the biggest mangrove area (Sundarbans) in the world. The country has bountiful resources to offer to both local and foreign travelers with its scenic beauty, ethnic diversity, unique cuisine, rich heritage and historical sites, profound religious sentiments and much more. The importance of tourism in Bangladesh is reflected in some recent stylised facts as highlighted in World Travel and Tourism Council.
The direct contribution of tourism to GDP was 296.6 billion taka (1.9 percent of total GDP) in 2014 and is forecast to grow by 6.1 percent per annum to 566.3 billion taka (1.9 percent of total GDP) by 2025. Furthermore, in 2014, the total contribution of tourism to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by this industry was 3.6 percent of total employment which equals to 1,984, 000 jobs. By 2025, tourism is forecast to support 2,492,000 jobs (3.6 percent of total employment).
However, the tourism sector of the country has not been able to reap much benefit despite the immense prospects of development the tourism sector has. There are numerous reasons that stand as a hindrance to the development of the tourism sector of Bangladesh.
First and foremost, the basic infrastructure of the country is a matter of great concern for both the local and foreign tourists. The cities and towns of the country lack adequate number of good quality accommodation facilities, decent public transports, safe and secured roads, well-equipped hospitals, and access to clean water, hygienic foods and an uninterrupted access to electricity.
Secondly, the tourism infrastructure is not far too developed as well. The country has yet to offer resorts and hotels of quality, well-equipped with recreational facilities attractive to travelling tourists, well-trained tourist personnel to guide the tourists and other attractive entertainment facilities such as shopping malls, movie theatres, theme parks, museums etc.
Moreover, the lack of community support also stands as a major barrier to the development of the sector. A huge part of the population cannot read, write or speak in English, cannot properly guide a tourist to his destination or do not initiatives to help them in case they need it.
The community has yet to fully understand the value of the tourism sector and that of the tourists. The pitiable law and order situation also, is a very crucial barrier to the growth of the sector. Among other problems, lack of long term plan (master plan) by government, lack of modern recreation facilities, promotional activities, traditional weather forecasting techniques, lack of sufficient safety & security system etc. are vital ones in this regard.
It is thus very obvious that efforts need to be taken by Bangladesh government to overcome the barriers of tourism sector to diversify the export basket of the economy as well as attain a sustainable economic development.
Sakib B Amin, PhD, is Assistant Professor; Chowdhury Saima Tabssum and Nazre Hafiz are BS student, School of Business and Economics, North South University.