Smooth customs clearance and immigration coupled with measures of security and health will boost India-Bangladesh cross-border river tourism, speakers said at a virtual dialogue on Thursday.
"Cross-border tourism and trade will play a significant role in socio-economic development and environmental as well as cultural preservation," said Bipul Chatterjee, executive director of Rajasthan-based organisation CUTS International that works on international trade and development among many other things.
Infrastructure development, right and easy regulations and public awareness will increase sustainable river tourism, he said at the discussion on India-Bangladesh cross-border tourism and cruise operations. It was organised by CUTS International as part of a regional programme supported by Swedish International Development Agency and Oxfam Novib.
Amita Prasad, chairman of Inland Waterways Authority of India, said India was developing itself to be a cruise shipping destination, with cooperation from Bangladesh in light of Maritime India Vision 2030.
River tourism would require deployment of cruise crew, jetty operators, tourist guides, cultural artists, small boat operators and food suppliers, thus creating employment for local communities of the neighbouring countries.
Commodore Golam Sadeq, chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, said river tourism would open up a lot of economic opportunities as this is one of the unique deltas in the world.
"Regulatory issues are being resolved. Now, the private sector should act vigorously and start marketing once the pandemic is over," he said.
During river journeys, people just do not want to be confined to ships. They want to explore historical places, visit local communities and participate in water sports, said Taufiq Rahman, chief executive of destination management company Journey Plus (Bangladesh).
All these should be ensured for tourism development. The authorities should also think of establishing a maritime museum, Taufiq said.
Claiming that river routes can take tourists to places not accessible by roads, Heritage River Cruises Director Raj Singh suggested modern jetties, technologically-advanced ships, and pollution-free shores for sustainable river tourism.