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Dhaka Tribune

Is Bangladesh prepared to be a tourist destination?

With the rising popularity of travel vloggers around the world, Bangladesh can capitalize on this trend

Update : 08 Aug 2022, 11:37 PM

Bangladesh is rarely considered as a tourist destination. No matter how sad it is to accept this, it is one fact that must not be overlooked. 

But it is also hard to accept how a country with such a rich cultural heritage as ours lags behind in its tourism sector. Our pride of having the longest sea beach remains limited to just that. “Beautiful Bangladesh” as we call it, is a term whose potential we never explored. 

As international travel enthusiasts head out for a world tour, Bangladesh never makes it to their itinerary. 

I happen to have many foreign friends who casually travel around the world for their “vlogging.” As an international student living in the UK, all I do is increase the curiosity of my foreign peers, but with a thought always lurking in my mind: If they ever visit my country, will they be impressed?

There has been an influx of foreigners travelling to the Indian subcontinent within the last decade. Nowadays, travelling is considered to be an investment which has led to endless possibilities. Backpackers and casual globetrotters are exploring a new-found activity which has also become their earning source. 

With the advent of YouTube, travellers get to share with the world their travelling experiences. Video blogging or “vlogging” has become quite a trend. What used to be journals have now been replaced by travel videos. With a DSLR or even a smartphone, anyone can record their memories anywhere in the world and upload it on YouTube. 

Travel videos not only portray individual experiences but give a detailed and raw insight on the particular place that is being shown. It can either increase the value or tarnish the image of a place. Nonetheless, it is slowly becoming a key player in boosting tourism industries around the world.

Travel vloggers roam around cities and picturesque landscapes capturing their beauty on their devices. And with simple video editing, these turn into mini movies that tell a story. They are always in search of anything unique that would bring more attention to their videos. Every travel video found on YouTube has something interesting that one tries to present. This in turn generates good revenue for the creators. 

Overall it is a win-win situation, both for the creator and the place the video is on. If the creator is already popular having subscribers in the millions, locations they show will get popularity as a consequence. Surprising as it may sound, a simple video can contribute to the economy of a country if it is shown positively.

Solo travellers look for a few things when they decide to travel to a country. The two main things are safety and accessibility. They make sure wherever they are travelling, they get a local guide and proper transportation to move about. By safety it is best that they shouldn’t be bothered in any way. 

Unfortunately, a foreign tourist draws more attention in Bangladesh than a fight in the street. On both occasions, we take out our phone and take pictures. The least we could do is make them comfortable as they roam around. But our curiosity in trying to communicate with them never ends.

It is not a bad thing as long we do not invade their space. We are also among the most hospitable people in the world. This is what international food vlogger Trevor James liked the most when he visited Dhaka with his “Food Ranger” team last year. 

Our hospitality is our asset and we must use it to make them feel at home.

Accessibility is best served when the transportation is efficient. As backpackers schedule their trips within a limited time and budget, they prefer the quickest mode of transport. 

That is when the need for adequate airports around the country plays a role. At present, there are five domestic airports and three international airports in Bangladesh. But how many of them are in the tourist areas? Many of these airports are in major divisions which are far from those places. 

Although Cox's Bazar has an airport, it is only for domestic use. If international flights get a clearance there, it will make a huge difference. More international tourists would have the comfort of coming to the beach town without hassle. The closer an airport is to the tourist attraction, the better accessibility it may provide.

It will be unfair to say not a single travel vlogger has visited Bangladesh. Despite certain limitations, there have been a significant amount of travel vloggers arriving in Bangladesh since last year. Renowned vloggers like Drew Binsky, Indigo Traveller, TheLifeofJord, Backpacking Simon, Kara and Nate, and Jason Billam have travelled to Bangladesh and made videos. The videos were a mix of both positive and negative, each describing their own experiences in this country.

The most recent video from Sonny Side of the “Best Ever Food Review Show” showed him trying street foods of Dhaka and Chottogram. His three-episode video series focusing on Bangladeshi cuisine hit almost two million views each on Youtube. Many other renowned creators such as Khaled Al Ameri and Mark Wiens have also travelled to Bangladesh and made interesting content on our food and tourist spots. 

This is hopefully the beginning of a new stream of foreigners coming to Bangladesh for travel purposes. 

There used to be a time when the only reason a foreigner (read Westerner) travelled to Bangladesh was because of getting posted for work by an NGO or the UN. But this is gradually changing as we are being voluntarily chosen as a destination to travel. 

What they experience here is what the world would have an impression of. Therefore we must treat them just like we treat a guest at our home. They are our guests and we need to equip ourselves to host them and help create memories they would forever cherish.

Aiman R Khan is an Advocate and Accredited Mediator.

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