The government is exploring multiple themes to determine suitable tourism products under the country's first tourism master plan, which is now under processing.
"Primarily we have explored 10 themes: eco-tourism, riverine, cruise, adventure, beach, archaeological and historical, pilgrimage and spiritual, MICE (meeting, incentives, conference, and exhibitions), and ethno and rural tourism," said Sakshi Godara, project coordinator of "Preparation of Tourism Master Plan for Bangladesh" in a national workshop on the draft of the strategic plan (phase-2).
"We are also working on three other themes- health and wellness, medical and SAVE (Scientific, academic, volunteer and education) tourism- based on which various types of products will be developed," she said.
"Strengthening the preservation of Bangladesh's heritage assets and safeguarding the cultural heritage ecosystem – both tangible and intangible – are our strategic plan," Sakshi Godara said.
For example, Panam Nagar in Sonargaon will be a product of archaeological and historical tourism, she said.
The progress of the master plan formulation, a government initiative that aims to boost the sector, was presented in the workshop, organised by the Bangladesh Tourism Board at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre on Thursday.
Sakshi Godara said the master plan has three phases, among which the first and second phases have been completed.
Identifying and surveying 1100 tourism assets, infrastructure assessment, performance evaluation, and prioritisation of tourist sites have been performed under phase one.
Besides, scenario planning and pathways, formulation of vision and mission, finalisation of strategic pillars and guiding principles, and identification of intervention areas have been completed under phase two.
The action plan will be formulated under phase three within this year, according to information revealed at the workshop.
Addressing the workshop, Md Ali Kadar, chairman of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, said, "Many government master plans often turn out to be unrealistic and require repeated changes. But we hope that it won't happen to tourism master plans."
"The master plan should detail the amount of investment required for implementation and the source of that investment," he added.
Speaking as chief guest, State Minister for Tourism Mahbub Ali said, "The main objective of our master plan is ensuring compatibility between environment and place. We have to make arrangements for tourism by maintaining the ecosystem of the destinations."
"The railway construction to Cox's Bazar, to the international airport there, and the Padma Bridge, have been made with the idea of promoting tourism in mind. Big projects will be taken up in the future as well," he said.
Advising people to be more generous in enriching the country's tourism, he said, "Conservative Arab countries are making drastic changes for the sake of tourism. We don't have to do that much, just need a little change in attitude."
"A conservative country like Saudi Arabia is mulling fundamental changes. Dubai in the Middle East has come out of its culture to attract tourists. Our culture is already tourism-friendly. We don't have to come out of anything. We just have to be more generous," he added.
Md Mokammel Hossain, secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation & Tourism and also the chairman of the Bangladesh Tourism Board, expressed the hope that the master plan will be completed within December this year.
He said, "The current state of tourism in Bangladesh can be taken forward. But the sad truth is that the activities we've done so far have not been done in a coordinated way."
The Bangladesh Tourism Board signed an agreement with IPE Global Limited, an international consulting firm, on 10 December 2019 on formulating the tourism master plan.
The goal was to complete the master plan in three phases within a deadline of 18 months. Work officially started on 19 January 2020 and was supposed to be completed in June last year.
However, the project suffered a setback at the beginning due to the coronavirus pandemic, which led to many foreign consultants and advisors leaving the country.
As a result, the project hit a roadblock until the consulting firm chalked out a new work plan, which was approved on 11 November 2020 with some amendments. ***