In the last five years or so, young Bangladeshis have become more and more interested to see their own country. A place like Sajek becoming a popular travel destination for young travellers is testament to this sharp rise of interest among the young people to see the beauty of their own country, and not just lean towards vacations abroad.
There are perks of touring one’s own country rather than focusing on travelling abroad for every vacation. For starters, it is cheaper. That alone is reason enough for young travellers to gravitate towards seeing different parts of Bangladesh. Also, the fact that our country is immensely beautiful does not hurt the cause.
In the age of digital Bangladesh, it seems very natural that travel enthusiasts will have an online hub. Facebook groups have been popular for sharing advice on travelling for a while now. The most popular social media in Bangladesh has now become a platform for people to gather and share or seek information about travelling around the country.
A two-day long event where travel enthusiasts got the chance to get together and discuss their passion kicked off at the University of Dhaka (DU) on Tuesday. The event was titled “Online Travelers Carnival” and it featured 38 Facebook based online travel groups.
The second iteration of the event garnered much attention from the online travelling communities of Bangladesh.
The program was arranged by the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation in collaboration with Tourism and Hospitality Management department of DU.
[caption id="attachment_254661" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
The makeshift welcoming gate for the two-day Online Travelers Carnival, held at Dhaka University's TSC, on March 20-21 Fahim Reza Shovon/Dhaka Tribune
There were 40 stalls at the carnival. Two stalls were allocated for the Parjatan Corporation and Tourism department of DU.
The most popular travel based Facebook group in our country is called “Travellers of Bangladesh (ToB).” It is also the largest travel group on Facebook for Bangladeshis with over 779,000 members. All the other groups are formed as sub groups from there.
Most of the groups that took stalls at the carnival offered packages for travelling across the country at competitive rates. There were a lot of offers for visiting Sajek Valley, one of the most popular destination among travellers.
Friendly Travel Group and DuPa Tour and Travels were giving an offer for 3 nights and 2 days in Sajek for Tk4000 only.
Tour Group BD, Anywhere Bangladesh and Country Tourism Bangladesh were offering Tk4500-6000 for a visit to Sajek for the same duration.
Arranging the tours at a low cost is one of the main priorities of the organizers. The admins of the groups often organize such tours and join in. Minimum facilities are provided at the lowest possible cost if a large group of people are visiting a particular location together.
Most of the group admins are students from different universities. The groups make a point to offer student-friendly travel packages.
An admin of Bindass Travel Group Redwan Khan told the Dhaka Tribune: "We are trying to provide the cheapest rates to the students. We try to minimize the cost by using student friendly elements.”
[caption id="attachment_254663" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
Stalls set up by the participating online travelling groups had been frequented by scores of travel enthusiasts during the Online Travelers Carnival at the Dhaka University's TSC on March 20-21 Fahim Reza Shovon/Dhaka Tribune
However, the traveller’s interest is not just confined to seeing the beauty of Bangladesh. People are interested experience nearby exotic locations as well.
One of the moderators of the group Bangladesh Club told the Dhaka Tribune: "We are offering international tours at attractive prices. We have a Darjeeling tour package for Tk10,000, which is a very cost-effective price. The offer is valid for this month only.”
Some regional travel groups made an effort to uphold their regional culture through the event. After all, travelling is not complete without a few souvenirs. Travellers of Tangail kept Tangail saris in their stall for sale. They were trying to attract the attention of travel lovers by doing this, one moderator of the group said.
The event also catered to a developing interest in camping. Most of the shops displayed travel tools and kits in their stalls. Some shops installed tents in front of their stalls to grab the attention of the visitors.
One of the organizers of the carnival and General Manger of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, Pervez A Chowdhury told the Dhaka Tribune, "Parjatan Corporation allowed everyone who applied for a stall to have a place at the event.”
“Bangladesh is going to gain the status of a developing country soon. We have to face new economic challenges. Tourism must be the alternative way to show the country's economy the right path.
“There has been a multidimensional change in the tourism industry by the online travellers in the last five years. These young people are travelling to and discovering new places. Professional travel agents were not able to do this till now.”
Pervez said they plan to open a program called “One village, one destination.” He said the Parjatan Corporation wants to develop agro-based tourism with the help of the online travelling community.
“Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation wants to bring the online travel community under a common platform and regulation with the government as their patron," he said.
A visitor at the carnival, Mehedi Hasan, who is also a student of DU told the Dhaka Tribune: "Sometimes it is difficult to assess the authenticity of online offers. This carnival gave us an opportunity to physically see the people who will arrange our tours."