Despite limitations, the domestic tourism market is showing signs of significant rise with around 70 lakh tourists visiting various destinations in the country each every year. Experts said, tourism industry can pay a pragmatic role in boosting the country’s GDP if the proper policy is taken.
The number of domestic tourist has reached around 65 to 70 lakh by the end of 2017, which was around 3 to 5 lakh in 2000, according to Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, University of Dhaka.
With a total contribution of 5.2 per cent of the GDP, the tourism industry of Bangladesh is playing an effective role in boosting the country’s economy.
According to the Bangladesh Tourism Board, in 2017 Bangladesh had about seven lakh international tourists and about 6.54 lakh in 2016. Over 2.50 lakh came to Bangladesh exclusively for tourism.
Industry insiders said, lack of proper infrastructure, proper policy and security are the main barriers for flourishing the sector fast. Masuda M Rashid Chowdhury, researcher and professor of Dhaka University, said if the necessary policy is taken to attract tourist, the number of domestic tourist will increase to 1 crore within next 5 to 6 years.
Cox’s Bazar, the world’s longest sea beach and a place of unparalleled natural beauty situated in the hilly region of Chittagong, is a favourite destination of domestic tourists. Sylhet is the third most attractive place for the domestic tourist. Traditionally, the place used to draw religious tourists because the Hazrat Shah Jalal and Hazrat Shah Paran shrines are located in the region. Besides, Sylhet is also known of its natural beauty.
Tourism researchers say it is important to keep up the flow of domestic tourists. If the flow drops, the tourism market may collapse.
They also stress better infrastructure and communication to increase the domestic tourist flow.
Employment opportunities in the tourism industry have also reportedly increased along with an expansion of the domestic tourism market.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), around 1.5 million people directly and 2.3 million in all are involved in the Bangladesh tourism industry.
According to tour operators and owners of hotels and motels, around 60 per cent of the domestic travellers visit Cox’s Bazar.
The government is seeking foreign investment in the tourism sector apart from domestic one to help grow the sector further with an increased employment generation, said an official at the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry.
The official said the government feels a long-term plan is essential to turn Bangladesh's tourism sector into an international standard one.
Orion Development Consortium, along with its operating partner Pan Pacific Hotels Group, planned to develop a luxury tourism resort and entertainment village in Cox’s Bazar with an estimated investment of USD 119 million under the public–private partnership (PPP) framework.
According to the civil aviation and tourism ministry, the development came after a government decision in 2013 to set up a tourism village at the site of Parjatan Holiday Complex in Cox’s Bazar with a view to transforming the beach town into a world-class tourist destination.
Subsequently, a consulting firm was given the task of conducting a feasibility study, which has already been completed.
Tour operators said nearly 63.88 lakh international and around 20 lakh domestic passengers had travelled by air on different routes last year, helping to boost the local tourism industry.
Last year's sales of the event participants amounted to nearly Tk 3 crore and expectations were higher this year, said organisers.
According to the United Nations' World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the contributions of tourism industry to the global economy will increase by many folds in the coming years. The total number of tourists around the world will stand at 1.6 billion by 2020 with over an income of US$ 2 trillion, a government publication says quoting the UNWTO.