The recent visits of the USA-based international luxury cruise line Silversea with tourists to Bangladesh have ushered in a new era of sea tourism in the country.
Recently, the Silversea made a couple of trips to Sundarbans and Maheshkhali island, which could be new prospects for the country’s blue economy, according to the sector people.
“Blue Economy” is marine-based economic development that leads to improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
The recent Silversea visits helped local business earn a sum of Tk70 lakh while the government also earned a significant amount, the people familiar with the business said.
After fixing the maritime area at the Bay of Bengal, the policymakers started analysing the prospects of blue economy through sea resources and minerals while sea tourism has appeared as first output such specialised economy by the visits, experts said.
With the trips, sea tourism had unveiled another dimension of blue economy in the country’s maritime sector, said Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, at a recent meeting in the Secretariat.
He said: “About Tk35 lakh revenue was deposited to the state treasurer by the first trip of Silver Discoverer. By this initiative, sea tourism prospect in Bangladesh will attract international companies which carry more earning for the country.”
National Oceanographic and Maritime Institute on February 7 organised a seminar on future planning of blue economy and environmental research where the research head Sirazur Rahman Khan said about 10,000 tourists visit Saint Martin’s island everyday where the number is only 3,000 in 2010.
In the seminar, he suggested making an appropriate survey on the sea to discover its all resources and prospects; initiating a well-informative database over the blue economy and introducing more international-class facilities for the tourists.
The international tourists were scared to visit Bangladesh after the Gulshan cafe attack last year.
But the trips of 162 foreign tourists by sea to Bangladesh without any untoward incident proved that Bangladesh is “safe and better place for tourists,” said sources in Bangladesh Tourism Board.
Amongst the 162 tourists, the highest 66 visitors were from the USA. Visitors from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and many European countries were in the trips, said Journey Plus, partner of Silversea in Bangladesh.
The cruise ships “Silver Expeditions” anchored in Maheshkhali island of Cox’s Bazar district and Sundarbans.
Tourists in small boats of the ship visited the places and expressed their joy after sight-seeing and interaction with local people, said the organiser of the trips.
Marveling at the natural beauty of Sundarbans and Maheskhali island, a sailor of the ship wrote letter to the tourism minister expressing his delighting experience.
The tourists did not disclose their names because of security concerns.
“Bangladesh is now on the world’s cruise map and this voyage will help boost future tourism of the country,” said Journey Plus Chief Executive Officer Taufiq Rahman.
Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali Hossain said the tourists visit different historical places and pagoda.
Maheshkhali Upazila Nirbahi Officer Abul Kalam said such type of visits would help develop positive image of Bangladesh in tourism sector.
Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mahbubul Alam said the initiatives may inspire tourists from other countries to visit the world’s longest sea beach and the world’s biggest mangrove forest.
Silversea has started carrying tourists on two routes through Bay of Bengal. One is Colombo-Kolkata via Cox’s Bazar and another is Kolkata-Thailand via Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The government had announced 2016 year as the “Tourism Year” while the ruling party strongly tried to convince foreign tour companies to initiate operation in Bangladesh. The Silver Discoverer’s visit shows the signs of a new trend.
Tiger Tours Limited Chief Operating Officer Sumala Chowdhury said: “The sea tourism has a huge prospect for our economy. But we have to flourish and nurse the sector without doing any harm to our natures, heritage and tourist environment.”
Sohel Rana, member of traveler group Oronyopremi, said the government should take more tourism-friendly initiatives to inspire many more tourists to visit the world’s longest sea beach and the world’s largest mangrove forest.
Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh urges the government to bring all bureaucratic formalities under an umbrella for tour operators so that they can easily do any formality promtly.