The government must improve inter-district road connectivity on a priority basis to harness the potential of the tourism sector, which is being marked as a major source for economic growth.
All tourist attractions lie outside Dhaka and getting out of the city itself takes five hours, which is very off-putting for foreign visitors, Toufiq Uddin Ahmed, president of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh, said in an interview.
For instance, getting to Cox's Bazar, the country's premium tourist destination, takes 18-20 hours by road. “This is unacceptable.” The overall infrastructure pertaining to potential tourist spots needs major facelift, he said, while citing the Sundarbans and the Cox's Bazar as cases in point.
As the world's largest mangrove forests and a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Sundarbans, in theory, should be a massive tourist drawer, but, in practice, that is not the case.
There are no decent hotels or resorts for overnight stay, he said. “It's a great tourist asset for us and we are not monetising it.”
“Cox's Bazar is the world's longest natural sandy beach, but what good is the size if there is nothing to do. No-one will do a marathon there,” he said, while citing the lack of a proper waste management system in the seaside town.
Waste from hotels is dumped in the sea, which majorly pollute the environment of the spot. “This gives a bad reputation. The government should look into the matter before much damage is done.”
Marketing is another area where the country is found emphatically wanting. “I know some countries which have very small beaches but they are excellently promoted and hence attract tourists in hordes.”
He said the government can follow the lead of Malaysia and Thailand, which promote their tourism sector with great fervour. “No surprises that they are always featured in the most-visited country lists.”
Security is another of the foreign nationals' concerns, he said, while suggesting the government deploy more police during the peak tourist season.