To increase the participation of women in the tourism industry, it is essential to ensure safe tourism attractions in Bangladesh, tourism experts said in Dhaka on Friday.
The country can attract more foreign tourists if it is able to increase women's involvement in tourism, they said at a seminar on the third day of a four-day tourism festival. The Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry's Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) hosted the event at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the capital's Agargaon.
"Many tourism destinations in various countries around the world have the main theme of 'Safe Tourism Destinations' in their branding. Therefore, the government needs to focus on branding in this regard," said Dr Santus Kumar Deb, chairman, tourism and hospitality management department, Dhaka University, while placing the keynote paper in the seminar.
He mentioned, "Finland is one of the safest countries in Europe for women to travel alone. Situated along the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe, this country is an ideal destination for nature enthusiasts. Apart from this, Belgium and New Zealand are also renowned as safe tourist destinations. Therefore, within this branding, increasing the number of female tourists and empowering women in tourism should be among the main goals."
In the tourism industry in Bangladesh, women's participation is only 14.06%, whereas in Vietnam, it is 68.7%, the figure is 60.3% in Nepal, and it is 35.5% in Sri Lanka, according to the keynote paper.
"Nepal is one of the safest countries for women to go trekking, hiking, and explore various tourist destinations. Along the way, one often encounters many individual female travellers, which inspires others," Dr Santus Kumar Deb observed.
He went on to say that the interest of women in tourism in Bangladesh has increased significantly. "Women, either individually or in groups, are exploring various tourist spots in the country. Therefore, ensuring the safety of women in tourist destinations is essential. Policies should focus on providing safe and adequate tourism services for women, and infrastructure development. This is not only important for tourism but also plays a crucial role in overall economic and investment attraction."
To increase women's participation in the tourism industry in Bangladesh, informal tourism education should be provided alongside formal tourism education, Dr Santus Kumar Deb suggested. "Tourism should be incorporated into the curriculum as a subject from the secondary level. At the higher secondary level, women should be empowered with advanced knowledge in tourism and hospitality management."
According to the World Tourism Organization, by 2030, the global tourism industry is projected to contribute $8.9 trillion to the global economy and make up 10.3% of the GDP. In Bangladesh, in the year 2019, the tourism sector contributed 4.4% to the country's GDP, the keynote paper pointed out.
It also cited that globally, nearly 300 million people are employed in the tourism industry, with around 58% of them being women in the European tourism sector. "In Bangladesh, despite the willingness and capability of women to participate in the tourism sector, many face barriers due to socio-economic and cultural constraints. The lack of social security plays a significant role in hindering women's participation in tourism," according to the keynote paper.
Nafisa Islam Lipi, the proprietor of Food Cadet Lipi's Euphoria and Director of the Tourism & Hospitality Industry Skills Council, said, "I learned to cook to prepare good meals for my child. From there, I have come to this stage today. However, I have also gained the ability to communicate here through cooking."
More government initiatives, she said, are needed to involve women in 12 sub-sectors in tourism through training.
Afsia Jannat Saleh, managing director of Saimon Overseas and Vice President of ATAB, stated, "To create entrepreneurs in this sector, we need to consider those who are involved in this field. If necessary, women should be sent abroad for training to increase their participation. They should work not just as women but as individuals. Only then can real development occur in the tourism industry."
At the seminar, Nasima Begum, former chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Zara Jabeen Mahbub, chief executive officer of Dun, and Sadia Haque, CEO and co-founder of ShareTrip, also delivered speeches.
Today is the last day of the festival where visitors can explore various traditional cuisines and handmade products alongside obtaining travel information.