The Padma Bridge is expected to open by next year, setting a milestone in the connectivity of the country
With the completion of the Padma Bridge next year and the massive ongoing vaccination program in the South Asian countries, Bangladesh will see a boom in local and regional tourism in the coming days, according to experts involved in the travel and tourism sector.
“Bangladesh will see a boom in the arrival of the South Asian tourists after completion of the Padma Bridge," Prof Akbaruddin Ahmad, former President of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) said while talking to Dhaka Tribune on Saturday.
“The connectivity with the southern part of the country with the capital will mark a significant improvement that will help boost local and international tourism," he added.
The Padma Bridge is expected to open by next year, setting a milestone in the connectivity of the country.
“The Padma Bridge is expected to unlock the potentials of the region and transform the lives of nearly 30 million people living in the South West. By reducing distances to major urban centres like Dhaka by almost 100km, the Bridge will reduce poverty in the region and accelerate growth and development in the country as a whole,” said a World Bank report.
“The travel and tourism sectors are the worst victims of the pandemic situation, leaving hundreds of people unemployed during this period,” Akbaruddin Ahmad said.
Earlier, speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Md Rafeuzzaman, president of TOAB and governing body member of the Bangladesh Tourism Board, said: “Tourism is the third largest industry in the world. In Bangladesh, it added 4.7% to the GDP in 2019, amounting to Tk6,300 crore. But due to the pandemic, the tourism sector had to incur a loss of around Tk20,000 crore last year.”
About 4 million people involved in this industry are now living inhumane lives, he further said. “Many are frustrated and have been forced to move to other businesses.”
Most tourists are South Asian
Akbaruddin Ahmad said Indian and Nepalese tourists will be interested to visit Bangladesh through the Padma Bridge. Even the government is planning to connect the southern-western part of the country with the capital through improved road and railway networks in phases.
The government is also upgrading the Mongla Port, making it an international port, with a view to easing the pressure on the Chattogram Port.
He also sees outbound tourism potentials in CIS countries by the Bangladeshi tourists.
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Bangladesh has changed a lot in the last 50 years and the country has become a member of a middle-income country this year.
“With the emergence of the rising upper and middle class in the country in the last 15-20 years and construction of hundreds of cottages, hotels and motels, the local tourism has also got an uplift during the same period,” said Professor Akbar Uddin.
With massive vaccination programs going on in South Asian countries, the tourism sector will get a boost in the coming days, said a top official of the Bangladesh Tourism Board, while talking to The Dhaka Tribune recently.
Indian tourists account for more than 80%
In 2019, a total of 323,295 international tourists visited Bangladesh. Out of that, the number of Indian tourists was 270,024, or 83.5% of the total tourists, according to the statistics of the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB).
In 2018, a total of 267,209 tourists visited Bangladesh. Out of that number, the number of Indian tourists was 213,947 or 80%.
“Besides promoting the local tourism, Bangladesh is eyeing South Asian tourists to give a boost to the tourism sector,” Assistant Director of Bangladesh Tourism Board Md Mazharul Islam said.
During the pandemic period, local and regional tourism will get priority, he added.
Tourism hit by Covid-19
The tourism sector has suffered a lot during the last year and a half with coronavirus hitting the world.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide has surpassed 227 million, with more than 4.6 million deaths, the latest data from Johns Hopkins University shows.
An advisory panel for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) endorsed a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine six months after full vaccination for people of 65 and older and individuals at high risk for severe disease.
However, some data of the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) showed that the number of international visitors (not tourists) stood at 591,503 in 2019 that dropped to 168,201 in 2020.
Allocation in Budget
Meanwhile, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal made an allocation of Tk3,688 crore in the national budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year (FY) for the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry.
Of the total Tk3,688 crore, Tk3,633 crore will be spent under the Annual Development Program (ADP) and Tk55 crore under the non-development sector.
In the budget speech, the finance minister said the government has taken effective steps to build a world-class civil aviation system to ensure safe, efficient and dependable fast passenger and goods transport.
“As part of the plan to improve the standard and scope of passenger and cargo handling capacity of our international airports, the work to build the third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is underway,” he said.
Moreover, he said, the work to upgrade Cox’s Bazar and Saidpur airports into international airports is progressing fast.
The finance minister said plans have also been taken to build the Khan Jahan Ali Airport in Bagerhat as well as expand and refurbish the Jessore, Saidpur, Barisal, and Rajshahi Shah Makhdum airports.
Besides, he said, an international standard Civil Aviation Institute would be established in the country,
Mentioning that the government has a plan to further expand the existing fleet of national flag carrier Bangladesh Biman, Kamal said efforts have been continued in increasing Biman’s flight frequencies to different profitable routes and expand or resume its connectivity to high demand destinations like Guangzhou, Chennai, Colombo, Tokyo, Toronto, Bahrain, Sharjah, New York and Salalah.
About the Tourism sector that has been hit hard amid the global lockdown, the finance minister said various steps have been taken to turn the tourism industry into a developed and modern economic sector following the directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The allocation in the proposed budget of FY2020-21 was Tk271 crore more than the revised budget of FY2019-20, which was Tk3,417 crore. The proposed budget of the FY2019-20 for the Civil Aviation and Tourism ministry was Tk3,426 crore.
Despite the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1, 2016, Bangladesh’s tourism sector witnessed a jump. According to BB and the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC), Bangladesh earned $324.28 million from the tourism sector in 2017 against an income of $163.21 million in 2016.
As per statistics of the BB and the BPC, Bangladesh earned $163.21 million from the tourism sector in the 2016 calendar year compared to $145.74 million in 2015, clocking 11.99% growth in 2016.
Tour operators opine that as the country has prospects of earning at least $1,000 million from this sector, it should not remain complacent over such earnings.
The number of guests at expensive hotels like Pan Pacific Sonargaon, Westin, Radisson Blu Water Garden, Amari, Lake Shore, Sarina and Le Meridien increased during 2016.
Chief Executive Officers of multinational companies, leaders of donor agencies and NGO leaders visited Bangladesh in large numbers.