The prospect of tourism along the Bay of Bengal is still in its infancy and is an untapped sector for Bangladesh’s economy.
As it stands now, the private sector has been investing in marine-based economy known as “Blue Economy”, which not only leads to bolstering social equity, but helps reduce environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
Their progress has been slow but with the government’s intervention, private investors can be motivated properly and help the sector flourish and simultaneously boost the nation’s economy, experts say.
Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Maritime Affairs Unit Secretary Rear Admiral M Khurshed Alam, in his article titled “Blue Economy for Bangladesh” said that marine and coastal tourism is essential for strengthening the country’s economy and that: “Cruise tourism is the fastest growing sector in the leisure tourism industry.”
He added: “Trends in aging populations, rising incomes and relatively low transport costs will make coastal and oceanic locations ever more attractive. It falls with higher education establishments to deliver solid courses that can produce specific skills needed to maintain and increase market share in a discerning and competitive global market.”
The World Tourism Organisation UNWTO made a roadmap for 2030 and predicts aquatic tourism will play a vital role in the world tourism industry.
Policymakers have also started analysing the prospects of blue economy through sea resources and minerals and their experts have said, sea tourism is the first step in this specialised economy by the visits.
In mid 2017, US based international luxury cruise line “Silversea” is one such service that has made trips to Sundarbans and Maheshkhali island using sea routes along the Bay of Bengal.
These trips have unveiled another dimension of Blue Economy in the country’s maritime sector, said the then Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon.
Bangladesh Tourism Board says, the terrorist attacks in a Gulshan cafe in July 2016, had initially discouraged international tourists from visiting Bangladesh. However the trips of 162 foreign tourists without incident have demonstrated Bangladesh is: “safe” and remains: “a good place for tourists.”
The National Oceanographic and Maritime Institute organised a seminar on February 7, 2017, on future planning of blue economy and environmental research. As per Sirazur Rahman Khan, head of research, approximately 10,000 tourists visit Saint Martin’s island every day.
Sirazur suggests an appropriate survey should be made to discover more sea based resources. As per Sirazur, there is also a need to initiate more informative databases over blue economy and it is also necessary to introduce more international class facilities for tourists.
Keari Tours and Services Limited’s Assistant Manager Md Suhrawardy Hossain told Dhaka Tribune: “Our organisation is going to start four two-hour cruise packages that will run daily in Cox’s Bazar, starting March 2018 as there is a growing demand for cruises both from locals and international tourists.”
Whereas, Ananda Shipyard and Slipways Limited (Ananda Group) Chairman Dr Abdullahel Bari, presented at article titled “Our Oceans and the Blue Economy: Opportunities and Challenges” at the 10th International Conference on Marine Technology (MARTEC-2016) and said: “For the past few decades, shore-based coastal tourism has been popular.”
Abdullahel believes in the ‘3S’, which is the Sun, Sand and Sea and says: “The current performance of the South Asian region in the global picture is not as impressive as it is in neighbouring East and Southeast Asia. South Asian countries have lot of rooms left for development.”
He added: “It is also indeed a matter of hope that the future growth in this region in tourism can all be accomplished using the most befitting model of Blue Economy. By introducing beach-based recreation and tourism, tourist activities in proximity to the sea, and nautical boating including yachting, marinas and cruise tourism.”
“Bangladesh is now on the world’s cruise map and this voyage will help boost future tourism of the country,” said Taufiq Rahman, chief executive officer of Journey Plus, partner of Silversea in Bangladesh.
As per Tiger Tours Limited’s Chief Operating Officer Sumala Chowdhury: “Sea tourism has a huge prospect for our economy but we have to flourish and nurse the sector by being careful and make sure we protect nature and our heritage.”
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.
Sohel Rana, member of 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 that caters to tour operators.
The Bay of Bengal is the largest among 64 bays in the world and an estimated 1.4 billion people live along its coastline in Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Myanmar.
Nearly 30 million people of Bangladesh are directly dependent on oceanic fisheries and sea based commercial transports for their livelihood.