Local tourism set to recover as pandemic situation improves

Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) is eyeing 3 million local tourists in the next five years, as the economy is steadily on path to recovery after being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was possible thanks to the extensive vaccination drive across the country to contain the spread of the novel virus.

Javed Ahmed, CEO of BTB, made the remarks while speaking to Dhaka Tribune recently, adding that the next five years will likely increase the middle and upper middle class population, bringing in more local tourists.

Before the pandemic, some 2 million Bangladeshis visited different parts of the country annually, he informed.

According to an UNWTO 2020 forecast, Bangladesh incurred a loss of $470 million in the travel and tourism industry. 

Different small businesses of the industry, including hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and tour operators were adversely affected due to the pandemic.

Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (Toab) estimated a loss of up to Tk6,000 crore, with 70% of the total 3 workers from the industry losing their jobs in the last 1.5 years.

Before the pandemic, some one crore people travel within the country every year that generates earnings of Tk250 crore.

Contribution to GDP

The BTB CEO also said that the contribution of the travel and tourism sector of the country to its gross domestic product (GDP) has been estimated at 4.9%. It is set to increase in the coming years.

However, countries like the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and India have more contributions to the GDP of their respective countries, compared to Bangladesh.

For instance, in 2018, the contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the GDP (as a percentage of total GDP) was about 66.4% in the Maldives, 12.5% in Sri Lanka, 9.2% in India, 7.9% in Nepal, and 7.1% in Pakistan.

During the same period, Bangladesh’s contribution to its GDP was 4.4%.

Javed Ahmed said that in 2019, the global tourism industry generated 330 million new jobs with earnings of $8.9 trillion. The total contribution of the tourism sector to the world GDP was 10%.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has earmarked short, mid and long-term plans to develop the local tourism sector, he added.

Ahemd also informed about the government's initiatives to construct three tourism parks — Sabrang Tourism Park, Naf Tourism Park and Sonadia Eco-Tourism Park — in Cox’s Bazar. 

As the Padma Bridge is expected to open next year, the travel time between Dhaka-Sundarbans and Dhaka-Kuakata beach will be reduced substantially, said the BTB CEO.

Prof Akbaruddin Ahmad, former Toab president, said that with the launching of 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 tourists from other South Asian countries after the Padma Bridge is open for all, Ahmad told Dhaka Tribune.

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 travel and tourism sectors are the worst victims of the pandemic, leaving hundreds of people unemployed during this period, Ahmad also said.

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