The government is working to build a power and logistics hub centering Cox's Bazar. Crores of taka have already been invested in the region, including the coal-fired power plant from the Matarbari deep seaport of Maheshkhali, expansion of the Cox's Bazar airport runway, and the establishment of a rail connection. The new rail connection will have an impact on the overall social, business, and economic environment. The government also plans to establish several economic zones and special tourist zones around this area.
Cox's Bazar Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Abu Morshed Chowdhury recently spoke to The Business Standard about these projects and how the region can get the most benefits out of them.
What type of contribution will the new rail connection make to Cox's Bazar's economy?
The economy of Cox's Bazar, a tourist town, is dependent on the fishing and salt industries, in addition to tourism. The new railway connection will make a significant improvement in the communication and transport sectors. The transportation of fish products and salt will be easier. These industries will expand.
Small and medium enterprises will benefit from this low-cost transportation too. Many products are currently transported by sea as road transport is expensive. Products often do not arrive on time. But it will be easier to transport goods by rail in a short time.
What contribution will the new railway connection make to tourism?
Bangladesh has the world's longest beach, but we are still unable to capitalise on its tourism potential. To build the industry by ensuring international standard tourism services, we need to ensure a multimodal communication system. The new railway connection has taken us one step closer to that goal.
The runway expansion work of Cox's Bazar airport is almost nearing completion. This will also set a new dimension in the communication sector. On the other hand, the work of the Matarbari deep seaport is underway. When it is operational, it will make the goods transportation system more efficient.
With the railway connectivity, people can now easily travel to Cox's Bazar. The easy connectivity between Dhaka and Cox's Bazar will attract tourists. The train will also stop at the Dhaka airport station. As a result, there will be no need to change two or three vehicles to go to Cox's Bazar like before. Now, domestic and foreign tourists can come directly to Cox's Bazar by train after getting off at the Dhaka airport.
What role will Asia's first 100% tourist-friendly central air-conditioned railway station play in the tourism sector?
The six-storey station will have all kinds of tourist-friendly facilities. Many people do not want to come to Cox's Bazar because of the cost. The iconic station has locker facilities. Anyone can come and go back in a day if they want. This iconic station will play a role in taking the country's tourism industry to the international level.
What kind of initiatives do you think the government needs to take to promote the tourism sector?
If tourists are attracted to Cox's Bazar through the development of railways, airports, or transportation systems, they cannot be retained if the quality of service is not ensured. Now we have to focus on this aspect. We have to make proper plans. A tourism master plan is being developed. At the same time, government agencies need to be coordinated.
In other words, we need to think from a holistic approach. Everyone here, including auto-rickshaw drivers, shopkeepers, businessmen, and police, needs to be trained so that a holiday maker gets a tourist-friendly environment from the moment he or she arrives here.
In addition, to save Cox's Bazar town, a master plan needs to be implemented. Currently, work is underway to develop a master plan. Cox's Bazar is at risk of climate change as a coastal district. We need to be careful about the environment and nature for sustainable business and tourism. Buildings are being built everywhere. No one knows how much transportation is needed and how much is available. There is no sewer system. These issues need to be addressed now.