The long-awaited formulation of the country's first tourism master plan has to be more holistic and inclusive as the participation of all stakeholders is yet to be ensured in the process, say the tourism industry insiders.
"The master plan formulation farm conducted surveys covering various aspects of tourist destinations across the country. But as a tour operator, I would say that the participation of the tour operators was not sufficient in the process," Md Rafeuzzaman, president of the Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (Toab) said in a workshop on Wednesday.
"The views of the community people of tourist spots should be reflected in the plan," he added during his address at the event titled "Tourism Master Plan for Bangladesh: Progress and Way forward."
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 (BTB) at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel in the capital.
Sakshi Godara, project coordinator, preparation of tourism master plan, said that they have surveyed 1050 tourist spots in 64 districts. In addition to this, they also explored some new tourism destinations.
However, Dr Santus Kumar Deb, chairman, tourism and hospitality management department, Dhaka University, said, "The country has 1700 tourist destinations according to tourist police data. The number is around 1400 as per Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation. But the master plan committee did not cover all the spots yet which is very vital."
He emphasised to focus on the approach of 'private-public-community' partnership to formulate the plan.
The Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) signed an agreement with IPE Global Limited, an international consulting firm, on 10 December 2019 to formulate the tourism master plan. The cost of the contract with VAT and AIT included stands at around Tk28.66 crore.
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, that led many foreign consultants and advisors to leave 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.
However, Md Mokammel Hossain, secretary of the tourism ministry and also the chairman of BTB hopes that the master plan will be completed within December this year.
Prof Dr Nurul Islam Nazem, deputy team leader of project told TBS, "We have consulted with 90 national level organizations and with around 30,000 people under the project. No master plan would cover such a big number of people."
Regarding the spot visit, he said, "We covered most spots. We still have the window to continue our work as we have only finished the first phase."
The State Minister for tourism Mahbub Ali said in the event that the tourism master plan would be a milestone for Bangladesh.
Planning minister MA Mannan, who was the chief guest of the event, said, "The government will provide all kinds of facilities for the development of tourism. The private sector must also come forward to further boost the sector. But we have to see to it that their efforts are not hindered."
"I think many people will come to visit the country if we can provide adequate security and keep the tourist spots neat and clean," he added.