Bangladesh government has reformulated the National Tourism Act 2010 with some major changes taken based on the previous policy of 1992 to make the policy effective and create employment opportunities in the tourism sector. Ten years have passed and the policy is yet to be implemented properly with several shortcomings, writes Abir Hasan
THE potentials of tourism in Bangladesh have only been discussed but the necessary infrastructures have never been there. Even after the announcement of the Tourism Act 2010, this neglected sector did not get importance in the budget allocation.
The formulation and implementation of proper policies for specific industries play an important role in keeping any development trend alive. Therefore, it is time to formulate a tourism-friendly policy to make the potential and profitable tourism industry as an economic powerhouse and at the same time to utilise this industry for socio-economic development.
Tourism policy is a set of rules and regulations, as well as guidelines for development goals and promotion strategies, which provide the right framework for overall decision-making, starting at the individual level. Bangladesh Tourism Policy 2010 was enacted considering the need for a set of rules and regulations for the development of the tourism industry in Bangladesh. Even 10 years have passed but the National Tourism Policy has not been implemented yet.
The policy calls for the development of Cox's Bazar-Teknaf, St Martin’s island and Sonadia islands as ideal holiday tourist destinations. Meanwhile, natural tourism centres are losing popularity due to the infrastructure crisis, but commercial resorts are being built in those places. But due to lack of tourism laws, resorts, hotels and tour operators are not being brought under the rules and accountability. Nature, its components and locals of tourist destinations are suffering the most due to arbitrary tourism establishments.
Besides, the implementation of the Tourism Board Act, enacted in 2010, to develop, manage and enhance the quality of the tourism industry and services is also slow. Creation of a ‘tourism-related database, according to section 15 of the act, is yet to be implemented. As a result, accurate tourism-related statistics are not available in the country.
Therefore, to make the tourism policy effective, various issues such as identification of travel-friendly places for foreign tourists, coordination between various public and private tourism agencies and airlines, identifying potential tourist generating countries and taking appropriate measures to attract them are crucial.
Implementing the tourism policy for the overall development, management and development of the tourism industry and services in Bangladesh can create an outline for making this industry financially even more successful. Numbers of things need to be taken care of to implement the policy.
Identifying, preserving and developing tourist attractions; involvement of the government, private sector and stakeholders in the implementation of responsible tourism and coordination with domestic and foreign tourism organisations in creating tourism industry support facilities will play an important role in achieving the development goals of the tourism industry.
Moreover, for the development of tourism, it is very important to determine the strategy for tourism-based research, continuous data storage and promotion and dissemination of tourism services.
The policy calls for possible classification of tourists in all the attractions identified by the tourist area, collection and storage of information on the respective tourist destinations and preparation of a list of places according to the needs of tourists — these actions have not yet been implemented across the country. But the need for all this information to ensure tourism development in future action plans is immense.
The policy promises to provide necessary loans, tax holidays, concessional tariffs and tax concessions to enterprising locals and foreigners to increase economic participation in the tourism sector. Bank loans can be provided on easy terms to those who have taken initiative in developing tourism in the country. On the other hand, it is imperative to ensure the facility of a single service centre to provide various data on tourism potentials among domestic and foreign investors.
To develop tourism as a modern industry earning foreign exchanges, it is very important to formulate rules and regulations for the management of tourism-related institutions and to formulate and implement policies to create good employment opportunities through this industry. The implementation of fair tourism policy will play an important role in maintaining the dignity, heritage and uniqueness of the culture of the historically recognised places.
On the other hand, the most compelling issue is how to utilise this small tourism potential of our country and ensure maximum output. The provisions of the tourism policy act as a norm to reduce the impact of adverse effects on the environment caused by various activities organised for tourism.
The future of the tourism industry will deprive Bangladesh of much if it does not take short and long term plans now considering not only today’s tourism industry as a seasonal economic sector but also a potential industry of the future. Therefore, considering the global context for the development of the industry, it is necessary to formulate, update and implement up-to-date laws and policies for the expansion of this industry.
If the infrastructure can be created by planning and design in the light of proper policies, proper use of information technology, identification of tourism rich areas of Bangladesh and utilising these potentials to attract tourist with modern facilities, the tourism industry of Bangladesh will become a very profitable one.
Abir Hasan is a student of the University of Dhaka.