Know about the size of tourism market Bangladesh, market growth, prospect and ecotourism.
The prospect of ecotourism and capitalization of watery tourist spots
Ecotourism, also known as ‘Sustainable tourism’refers to responsible travelling to places of ecological interests to support conservation efforts and improve the well-being of local people. According to The Australian Commission of National Ecotourism Strategy, Ecotourism is nature-based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the mother nature and is managed to be ecologically sustainable. The idea of ecotourism is to minimize the negative effects on tourist sites including various establishments, trails and biodiversity by means of using recycled materials, locally manufactured goods, renewable energy, safe disposal of waste and garbage and building environmentally appropriate infrastructures. Ecotourism ensures minimum impact on the lives of local people and the resources of a tourist destination. It involves educating the tourists about the environment of the locality, lives of local people, code of conducts with the residing communities and so on. It helps the tourists to know about the lives and environment of a sensitive destination so that they can behave properly to minimize the impact on people and nature.
Tourism has a contribution of BDT 850.7 billion in the year 2017 which is 4.3% of the total GDP. The percentage, however, is expected to increase to 6.4%. Tourism sector provided around 1,178,500 jobs in Bangladesh in 2017 which is 2% of the total employment of the country. Inbound international tourists amount to over 106,000 in 2017 who contributed around $150,000,000 in the year 2017. The number of domestic tourist’s amount to over 35 million. Ecotourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry, with an annual growth rate between 10% and 30%. Nature-based tourism accounts for about 20% of total international travel and continues to grow, according to the UNWTO.
Ecotourism can be divided into 5 categories –
The concept of Ecotourism is not new in Bangladesh as the country itself is an ecotourism destination. The country is considered to be ‘gold mine’ for her unparalleled biodiversity, ancient heritage and wildlife. Ecotourism in Bangladesh can be greatly attributed to its lush green forests, meandering watery lines (Rivers, Lakes, Canals, Haors etc.), stunning tea plantation in Sylhet region, revering countryside, pristine beaches, fearsome wildness and magnificent tribal groups across the country. Currently, Bangladesh attracts 15% of tourists who visit South Asian countries, over 45% of the tourists visit India and among them more than 60% tourists visit Bangladesh. This indicates a great prospect for ecotourism in Bangladesh.
World’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans is located in the south-west region of our country which was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. The forest is home of the Royal Bengal Tiger and many more species and unique plantation. Every year more than 3 lacs local tourists and more than 5 thousand foreign tourists visit Sundarbans to experience the marvellous biodiversity enriched destination. One of the most prominent ecological destinations is St. Martin’s island located in the Bay of Bengal.
The island is gifted with vast marine and land resources including world-class corals, rare species of sea turtles, various algae, seaweeds, mangroves and blue marine water that attract thousands of tourists every year. However, the ecological balance of the island is greatly being affected by the huge number of incoming tourists and tourist’s vessels thus government should take proper measures to reduce the human intervention on the rich biodiversity of the island. World’s longest sea beach Cox’s Bazaar is another magnificent ecological tourist destination of Bangladesh. Millions of local and foreign tourists visit Cox’s Bazaar every year thus tourism is at its peak here.
Bangladesh government has enacted Bangladesh Environment Protection Law 1995 and The National Tourism policy framed in 2010 emphasized ecotourism development by preserving natural and cultural products(Tourismboard.gov.bd, 2018). If proper measures are taken to conserve the tourist spots and make the destinations more tourist-friendly, Destination organizations can earn a great deal of foreign currency from it. A coordinated approach involving policymakers, destination organizations and community people is required to boost ecotourism prospect of our country.
Ecotourism activities involve interacting with the mother nature without causing harm to it. There are opportunities for various ecotourism activities in Bangladesh. Some of the existing and potential activities are discussed below –
Trekking – Trekking is slowly becoming a popular ecotourism activity among Bangladesh people and foreign tourists due to its inexpensive nature. Trekking involves walking through deep forests and passing across waterways to reach a particular destination all by one’s own. Trekking is performed mostly in Bandarban district and in other Hill tract areas of Chittagong where there are is plenty of unexplored hills, waterfalls. Trekkers mostly collect trekking information and guide contact from social media websites. However, there is no organization working for the development of trekkers. Trekkers require trekking guides, maps, tips, groups and trekking gears to perform and there is plenty of scope for a company to offer these services as packages to interested trekkers.
Wildlife viewing – Wildlife viewing is a common ecotourism activity across the world. However, in Bangladesh, it is slowly gaining popularity. Bangladesh is home to more than 150 species of animals, 100 species of reptiles and more than 400 species of birds and 250 species of migratory birds making Wildlife viewing a prominent source of ecotourism activity(Fennell, 2013). Bird-watching is the most popular wildlife viewing activity in Bangladesh as it is considered to be Bird watcher’s paradise. People usually visit Sundarban Wildlife sanctuary, Lawachara rain forest, Rema-Kalenga wildlife sanctuary, Srimangal (Sylhet), Char Kukri-Mukrietc. for wildlife viewing.
Bird Watching – Both Local and Foreign tourists visit Jahangirnagar University located just at the outskirt of Dhaka city to watch migratory birds during the winter season (November-February). It has been reported that 13 small and large water bodies of the university draw the attention of more than 70 types of migratory birds every year. There is no entry cost to visit the place.
Kayaking – Kayaking has been becoming a very popular ecotourism activity in Bangladesh. Tourists like Kayaking as it allows them to control the movement of the boat all by themselves. At present, it is only offered on Kaptai Lake located in Rangamati district of the country. Kayaking can be a very potential ecotourism activity as Bangladesh is blessed with plenty of water bodies that can be used for promoting Kayaking. However, a handful of companies are offering the service at the moment. Kayaking on Kaptai lake usually costs BDT 300 for one hour.
River cruise –River cruising is a common ecotourism activity. Bangladesh is a riverine country thus many types of boats have been used by people from an early age as a primary mode of commutation. Currently, River Cruising is being offered by some private cruising agencies. ‘Contic’ is one such agency that offers day long cruising experience across the rivers of Dhaka and adjacent areas along with dining to individuals. Tourists are thrilled by the experience of voyaging amidst calm and quiet surroundings away from the city’s bustling life. The cruising experience gives them the thrill of riding on traditional Bangladeshi boats and offers them an unmatched
experience of spectating rural river lives. Currently, such cruising services are only available around Dhaka city but can be expanded to other riverside provinces.
Snorkelling & Scuba Diving – Snorkeling and Scuba Diving are gaining popularity among Bangladesh people for quite some time. They allow a person to swim through a body of water where one can observe the mesmerizing aquatic life in a completely natural setting. Snorkelling is more appealing to Bangladeshi tourists because it doesn’t require much efforts and equipment like Scuba Diving. In Bangladesh, both of these recreational activities are offered only in St. Martin’s Island where tourists can experience the magnificent corals and underwater sea species from a close distance.
Fishing–Fishing is another popular Ecotourism activity in Bangladesh. The country is a land of rivers, haors, beels and lakes that are spread around its body thus making Fishing a prominent pastime activity for tourists. There are around 700 rivers of various types in Bangladesh. Fishing is mainly offered by various Resorts and Tourism companies during monsoon when there is an abundance of fishes in the water bodies of the country.
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