- Bangladesh has around 1,700 tourist sites
- About 1cr domestic tourists visit them every year
- Poor tourism service infrastructure prevails
- Bangladesh is not a popular destination for foreign tourists
- Tourists' presence increased significantly in major sites after reopening
Although domestic tourism in Bangladesh has flourished widely in the last decade, most spots are not tourist-friendly due to a lack of smooth transportation, quality food, and healthy accommodation.
Additionally, over-tourism has become a very common scenario in many tourist spots that are harming the natural ecosystem and causing poor sustainability of the tourism potentials.
Despite its vast potential, Bangladesh could not yet become a popular destination for foreign tourists due to the poor tourism and airport infrastructure; religious value induced restrictions and a lack of comfortable transportation facilities.
The sorry state of Bangladesh's tourism sector was revealed in a report titled "Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019" published by the World Economic Forum.
Bangladesh ranked 133rd among 140 countries in tourism service infrastructure. Among South Asian countries, Bangladesh secured the lowest position, while neighbours like Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and Nepal secured 92nd, 109th, 112th and 126th positions, respectively.
State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Md Mahbub Ali told The Business Standard, "We are preparing a tourism masterplan with a vision to bring a massive change to the sector. After the completion of the Padma bridge, metro rail, and some other big infrastructure projects, foreign tourists will visit Bangladesh.''
Regarding over-tourism by domestic travellers, he said, "We are working to develop tourism infrastructure in areas where tourist flow is lower now. So, travellers will spread to different spots and over-tourism would come under control in some specific sites."
Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation has identified around 1,700 natural and cultural attractions such as beaches, lakes, rivers, hills, forests, wildlife, tribal life, archaeological remains, historical monuments, religious and cultural heritages, and handicrafts, which are the main attractions of tourism.
"Currently, domestic tourism is increasing rapidly, in which young tourists are the main contributors. About 10 million domestic tourists visit these places every year," said Md Ziaul Haque Howladar, manager at the corporation.
Meanwhile, the presence of travellers has increased significantly following the reopening of the tourist spots on 19 august.
Since then, every day a large number of tourists are flocking to see the haors, hills, springs, and rivers of Sylhet.
However, large tourist gatherings, the noise, and the use of loudspeakers and the littering of garbage have impacted the environment in these areas.
During a recent visit to the Tahirpur area of Tanguar Haor, it was seen that there were piles of waste dumped by tourists. Ratargul, the lone freshwater forest in the country, faces a similar fate.
Abdul Karim Kim, general secretary of Bangladesh Environment Movement, Sylhet, said, "About 4,500 tourists arrived in Ratargul on last Friday alone. The forest department may be benefiting from this, but forests and wildlife are being destroyed."
While there are several tourist spots in each upazila of Moulvibazar, due to a lack of proper branding and necessary facilities, except Srimangal the other locations could not be presented as attractive for tourism.
Sheikh Rafi, an admin of a large Facebook-based travel group in Sylhet, said, "There are plenty of tourist spots in Moulvibazar but they are not being branded properly and there are few facilities for tourists which is why tourism in the district is not growing."
Tourism prospects mostly unutilised in Sundarbans
Local and foreign tourists of all ages flock to see the Sundarbans and learn about the history of the oldest sixty-domed mosque. But the visitors are frustrated when they come to see these installations. There is no standard food hotel and accommodation. There is also no tourist guide. The transportation system is also fragile.
Jannatul Ferdous, a visitor from Dhaka, said she did not have the opportunity to see many attractive things due to a lack of necessary accommodation.
Md Belayet Hossain, divisional forest officer at the Sundarbans East Forest Department, said 83,539 local and 299 foreign tourists visited the Sundarbans in fiscal 2020/21 even during the pandemic.
Construction work of two tourist centres at Alibandha and Andharamanik in the Sundarbans is underway to make it tourist-friendly, he added.
Bagerhat Deputy Commissioner Md Azizur Rahman said 80% of the construction work of the Bagerhat three-star hotel has been completed. Besides, the construction of a restroom in front of Shatgumbuj has ended.
Hilly sites still far from a tourist-friendly atmosphere
Although Rangamati has a reputation as a tourist city, it has not yet become a tourist destination for various reasons.
As autorickshaws are the only means of transportation, tourists have to travel in reserve vehicles across the city. Autorickshaw drivers also have no training or guidelines on how to deal with tourists. As a result, they often quarrel with tourists over fares.
Most hotels have not yet become professional. They cannot ensure a tourist-friendly environment. As a result, the character of a tourist city is yet to develop here.
Entrepreneur and tourism writer Lalit Chandra Chakma says, "Naturally, this town is 100% tourist-friendly, but it has lackings in facilities, management, and infrastructure."
Beach erosion is a vital problem in Kuakata
Though, the transport and accommodation facilities are now good in the Kuakata sea beach – the largest tourist spot in Barishal – the acute erosion of the beach has become a vital problem for tourists and traders there.
A beautiful coconut garden on the beach has gone into the sea due to erosion.
Unplanned urbanisation made Cox's Bazar a city of concrete and garbage
Due to unplanned urbanisation for a long time, Cox's Bazar is becoming a city of concretes instead of a world-class tourist-friendly city.
Cox's Bazar has not been categorised as a tourist city and it has no waste management. Even though it is a first-class municipality, there is a lot of garbage everywhere. The sewerage system was not developed. The environment is being harmed by sewage. The roads are dilapidated.
Rezaul Karim, president of the Cox's Bazar Tour Operators Owners Association, said, "It has been difficult to walk on roads for over a decade. Although development work is going on on different roads, Cox's Bazar has turned into a worn-torn city for the past year and a half due to a lack of coordination in its activities."
Our correspondents from Sylhet, Moulovibazar, Barishal, Bagerhat, Satkhira, Rangamati, and Cox's Bazar have contributed to the story.