The Dhaka University Tourist Society, and Tourism Student Association have arranged weeklong programmes of different flavours to celebrate the day, while different hotels, and motels announced various offers
Despite the possibilities, due to lack of a proper development plan, and promotion, many potential tourist spots in Bangladesh remain untapped.
While local tourists and travel groups continue to explore such places in the hills, forests, and lesser known sites of the country, there is little government initiative to promote such spots.
Against this backdrop, Bangladesh, alongside other countries around the globe, will celebrate World Tourism Day on Friday with a theme of "Tourism and Jobs: A Better Future for All."
Officials at the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), and Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry said, even though Bangladesh is a land of diversified cultures, and natural beauty suited to tourism, red-tapism and the absence of a master plan has not allowed this sector to flourish to its fullest potential.
Sakia Haque, founder of Travelers of Bangladesh (TOB), the largest online tourist platform in the country, which has over one million members, told Dhaka Tribune that though there are hundreds of spots in Bangladesh which can become great tourist destinations, little information is available to tourists regarding these sites.
“Due to lack of information and promotion, tourist destinations in Bangladesh are failing to attract visitors,” she added.
However, countering this statement, BTB CEO Bhubon Chandra Biswas said: "We require authorization from at least 21 ministries to take any steps regarding tourism, which creates delay in taking necessary initiatives for any potential sites, for it to get explored by tourists."
A master plan to unlock possibilities
Bangladesh Tourism Board was formed in 2010 to develop the country's tourism sector, and increase its contribution to the economy, however it has failed to put together a master plan in the last nine years to advance the sector by attracting foreign tourists.
However, a process has finally begun to develop a master plan so that the country's tourism sector gets the forward push that it needs.
Meanwhile, short, medium, and long term planning has been made for exploring the full potential of Bangladesh’s untapped tourism sector, said State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism M Mahbub Ali.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary M Mohibul Haque said, a global consultant firm will receive the work order to formulate the master plan by October 7.
Separate exclusive tourism plans targeting Sundarbans, Cox’s Bazar, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) will be made too, he added.
What does the future hold?
The major aim of the master plan will be to develop the tourism sector as a whole, and promotion thereof.
There will be an exclusive tourism zone, solely for foreign tourists in Sabrang upazila in Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar, the longest unbroken sandy beach, with all the modern day facilities.
Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority is already developing Sabrang Tourism Park - first ever seafront tourism park in Bangladesh - encompassing an area of 1027 acres. It is also developing a project tilted Naf Tourism Park, and Sonadia Eco Tourism Park - both in Cox’s Bazar.
Responding to a query, BTB secretary Biswas said that setting up casinos for foreigners depends on demand, and the country's law, adding that they have plans to set up a river cruise service for Dhaka dwellers, where six rivers around the capital - Buriganga, Turag, Balu, Shitalakkhya, Dhaleshwari, and Bangshi- will be connected together.
Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary M Mohibul Haque said they are introducing Advance Passenger Information System Software by June 2020 to get the exact statistics on foreign tourists travelling to Bangladesh.
"The law of the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation will be updated, while there will be laws for tour operators, and tour guides to move the sector forward.
"For skilled workforce in the sector, National Hotel and Tourism Training Institute will be modernized, where five-year courses on tourism will be offered," he added.
BTB chief Biswas requested the private sector to work more actively, and collaborate with the government to develop the sector.
Bangladesh Tourism in Global Ranking
Bangladesh is the 120th nation among 140 countries in the world as a tourist friendly country, according to “Travel and Tourism Competitive Report-2019” by the World Economic Forum.
It was in the 125th position a year ago.
However the situation is not much appreciated as only Pakistan, with the position of 121th is below Bangladesh in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) nations. India ranked 34, Sri Lanka ranked 77, and Nepal 102 in the report.
In 2018, Lonely Planet – the world's largest travel guide book publisher – showcased Bangladesh as the best-in-value travel destination for 2019, ranking it at 7th in their list of the top 10 places for affordable adventures.
Events for today
The government and different organizations have chalked out weeklong programs in all districts to celebrate the day.
There will be mass awareness on the significance of tourism across all 64 districts, and there will be seminars to mark the day, said civil aviation and tourism ministry officials.
The day’s program will begin with a colourful cycle rally at 8:30am from Manik Mia Avenue to International Mother Language Institute via Farmgate, Kawranbazar, Hatirjheel, and Moghbazar, reports BSS.
The BTB and BPC will jointly hold a seminar on this year’s theme at 10am at International Mother Language Institute auditorium.
The Parjatan Bichitra, a travel magazine, will organize a three-day tourism fair styled “7th Asian Tourism Fair” that will beginon firday, and continue till tomorrow at Bashundhara Convention Centre in Dhaka with the participation of 150 different tourism service providing organisations from eight countries.
The Dhaka University Tourist Society, and Tourism Student Association have arranged weeklong programmes of different flavours to celebrate the day, while different hotels, and motels announced various offers.