- Villages with tourism prospects should be identified on a pilot basis
- Traditional professions in rural areas can become tourist attractions
- Sea tourism can be introduced and popularised
- Tourism must be introduced in a way that protects the biodiversity of the sea
The enormous prospects and potential of tourism is still undiscovered in Bangladesh, especially regarding community based village tourism and maritime tourism.
Speakers shared the views at two different virtual programmes on Sunday organised on the occasion of World Tourism Day 2020.
The year's theme for the day, which was observed virtually instead of the usual festivities, was "Tourism and Rural Development."
The civil aviation and tourism ministry organised a virtual discussion in the morning where the State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Md Mahbub Ali was the chief guest.
Mahbub Ali said, "There is huge potential and diversity of the tourism products of Bangladesh. Most of the tourist attractions in Bangladesh are located in rural areas which are repositories of natural beauty."
The state minister said the government is working to develop rural tourism by ensuring the safety of the environment in the countryside.
"Programmes for expanding community-based tourism, to develop rural tourism consistent with bucolic life, are ongoing. We are also working relentlessly to engage the marginalised people of the villages in tourism and ensure their roles in creating an environment suitable for it," said Mahbub Ali.
Md Mohibul Haque, senior secretary of civil aviation and tourism ministry, said, "Despite being a country of limitless possibilities for tourism, we have not presented our tourism products to the world properly. This is why the tourism industry's contribution to our gross domestic product has been low till now."
Mohiuddin Helal, editor of the travel magazine Parjatan Bichitra, said, "We have to identify some villages with tourism prospects on a pilot basis. Then people in those communities have to be trained to boost tourism."
As the keynote speaker, Dr Jabed Ahmed, chief executive officer of Bangladesh Tourism Board, said, "The rural culture and traditional professions of the people can be the product of village tourism."
Maritime tourism can be introduced and popularised
Meanwhile, a webinar titled "Underwater Nature Exhibition and Discussion," organised by Save Our Sea, was held on Sunday.
Speakers at the event said the underwater natural beauty of the sea in the country should be explored to open a great opportunity for tourism.
Bangladesh's sea, which is still not being used by our tourism operators, is loaded with a wealth of biodiversity.
If sea tourism could be introduced and popularised, it would be one of the biggest sources of revenue in this sector and would contribute to the blue economy.
However, this type of tourism has to be introduced in a strategic way so that the biodiversity of the sea is not harmed, said Dr Syed Rashidul Hasan, professor at Department of Maritime Tourism and Hospitality Management, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University.
"Biodiversity of our country is being destroyed due to unplanned tourism," he added.
Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin said the government is working sincerely for the protection of marine environment and biodiversity. To this end, the government has declared 1,738 square kilometres of the South Bay as a Marine Protected Area.
This has helped in the conservation and breeding of endangered marine dolphins, whales and sharks.
Additionally, work is underway to declare 1,743 square kilometres adjacent to Saint Martin Island as a Marine Protected Area to conserve its biodiversity.
A number of significant steps have been taken for the sustainable management of the overall aquatic biodiversity in the Bay of Bengal, especially dolphin conservation.
The environment minister said his ministry has declared Saint Martin's Island, Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Beach and the Sundarbans as environmentally critical areas (ECA) to protect the coastal areas of Bangladesh.
Projects have also been undertaken for sea biodiversity assessment. The government is implementing a landmark 100-year delta plan aimed at building a prosperous Bangladesh in the future.
The programme was presided over by the chairman of Cox's Bazar Development Authority Lt Col (Retd) Forkan Ahmed. Among others, academics and researchers participated in the webinar.