Prioritize tourism to achieve SDGs

Tourism is an important part of the global culture. It promotes social, cultural and economic phenomena in the world. It is the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business or professional purposes. It opens up scopes for the people to explore different parts of the world, create universal brotherhood and experience new tradition and activities.

Tourism has been one of the growing potential sectors in the world. It is boosting the global economy significantly. According to the data of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in 2019, 10.3% of the world GDP came from tourism sector. It is estimated that the global tourism amounts to 8.9 billion dollar. This sector has created 330 million jobs which show that one in ten jobs is created in the world from this sector.

Apart from strengthening global economy, tourism promotes peace, develops human resources and reduces poverty level.

Bangladesh as a country is fortunate enough to be gifted with huge tourism potentials. The country is beset with enormous natural resources. Green valleys, large forests, longer beaches, hills, lots of lakes and riversare the blessings for the country to be an ideal tourist land. Again, we see that ancient mosques, temples, church, pagoda, shrines, historical and archaeological sites bear the sign of enormous possibilities for the country’s tourism.

The country is blessed with many attractive places such as the Cox’s Bazar, the longest sea beach in the world, the Saint Martin’s island,one of the beautiful coral reef island in the world, the Sundarbans, the biggest natural mangrove forest in the world. Again, there aresome places in Sylhet such as Tamabil- Jaflong, Sri Mahalaxmi temple, the largest tea garden, and Lawacherra rain forestand many wetlands and natural resources are bearing the specialty of the country in the field of tourism. On top of that, the ethnic life style of indigenous people of hill tracts and religious and cultural diversity amid different communities represent powerful component in boosting our tourism sector.

However, despite the abundantscopes in boosting the tourism sectorthe country’s tourism still struggles to maximize its outcomes. Obviously, many Asian countries have earned much popularity in their tourism sector. Maldives, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and some other parts of Asia have placed their tourism to a great height over the years.

Index Mundi ranks the performance of countries in terms of foreign tourists. Bangladesh ranks 141out of 188 countries in the world. The position of the country is 42nd out of 46th Asian countries in tourism. The country has secured lowest position in South Asia. The neighboring countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Nepal have brightened their image before the world community through boosting their tourism. With their world class tourism they are attracting more tourists and enhancing their national economy significantly.

According to different sources, the present amount of economy of our tourist industry is BDT 500 million. It is estimated that between 2009 and 2018 the country received US$ 1157 million from the travel sector.Again, it is reported that some 2.23 million jobs are created each year in the tourism sector. However, there may have a concern when the question arises that how far we are able to attract the local tourists to visit the country’s attractive tourist places?

According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 2018-19, around 3 million Bangladeshi tourists went abroad.The report stated that majority (60%) of the tourists visited India. There were 8.12% who toured to Saudi Arabia while 4.57% tourist visited Malaysia and a substantial number went to Thailand, Dubai, Africa, Nepal and Turkey.

Every year the local tourists spend a huge amount of money for their tour to different countries. It is no denial that the country’s income from international travelers has dropped significantly but the number of people from Bangladesh visiting foreign countries has increased over the years. A question is pertinent to raise; when we struggle to retain the local tourists, how far we will be able to attract international tourists to our land?

Certainly, the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the global tourism sector. Travel restrictions in the time of pandemic made thousands of people jobless.In 2019 the number of tourism workforce was nearly 333 million but in 2020 it dropped to 271 million, a decrease of 62 million jobs due to the Covid -19 emergency.

Besides, the contribution of tourism to the global economy dropped by almost $4.9 trillion in 2020, which was a decrease of 50.4%. Though the economic contribution saw a little jump in tourism sector in 2021, this sector is still struggling in the post Covid crisis. The economic recession continues amid many developing countries and even some developed countries bear the brunt of post Covid economic crisis which discourages people to spend on international tours and travelling.

However, the initiatives of the present government have been enhancing the country’s tourism over the years. In boosting tourism and contributing to the national economy the government adopted National Tourism Policy-2010. This policy focuses on developing ecotourism through conserving natural resources, promoting well-being of the community and preserving cultural values of the local community and their participation and sharing benefits. Not only that, the government has enhanced infrastructural facilities to boost the country’s tourism.

Experts opine that there finds no alternative to giving strategic attention to come out of the challenges of tourism sector which have constrained to the development of sustainable tourismin our country.Research-based initiatives are a must to bring out maximum potentials from our tourism.

Concerted efforts should be taken to coordinate public and private initiatives in case of boosting our tourism. Professional and well-trained workforce should be employed in this sector so that they can provide best services for the tourists. Strengthening security, safety of the tourists and ensuring easy visa process are pivotal for the sustainable growth of our tourism. To this end, apartfrom encouraging investment from national and international agencies it is very imperative to strengthen marketing strategy and let the world know about our rich tourism.

Alaul Alam
The writer teaches at Prime University and a research scholar at the IBS

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