Tourism is one of the emerging industries in Bangladesh. The tourism industry accounts for 4.4% of the country’s GDP and is showing a noticeable amount of growth every year. Therefore, it can be said that the tourism industry is going to have a big impact on the economy of Bangladesh in the near future. But like many other industries, the tourism industry itself has its own challenges. In this blog, we will focus on the current state of Bangladesh’s tourism industry, its limitations, and future plans.
At present, the importance of the tourism industry is escalating with the increasing number of tourists in the country. In the financial year of 2019-20, the government allocated Tk 3,400 crore for Biman Bangladesh and the Ministry of Tourism, which is more than double that of the last financial year. And, we can certainly see the outcome of it in the rate of travel and tourism in the country. In 2019, the country saw the highest growth rate in the number of tourists. As a result, we moved from 125th position to 120th out of 140 countries in terms of tourism. While this may seem like an improvement in the tourism industry, its impact is still minimal. In terms of tourism within the Asian continent, only one country ranks after Bangladesh which is Pakistan. And considering the wide-case scenario, we are far behind everyone else. Again, 97% of the income that we generate from tourism, comes from our local tourists. This proves that Bangladesh as a travel destination is still quite unpopular among foreign tourists.
Over the past few years, South Asia and Southeast Asia have become quite popular tourist destinations. In 2018, South Asia’s tourism revenue was $39.4 billion, whereas Southeast Asia generated a revenue of $151.9 billion from tourism. And if we look at Bangladesh’s contribution to this, the amount is almost negligible. India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam alone accounted for about $164 billion in tourism revenue. Which accounts for 86% of the total income of South Asia and Southeast Asia combined. In addition, in 2017, around 115 million tourists visited these 6 countries alone. Other popular tourist destinations include Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, and the Philippines. From 2010 to 2018, the growth rate of tourism in South Asia and Southeast Asia increased by 10% and 8%, respectively. Again, the contribution of Bangladesh to this growth was very little. Now there are a few possible reasons why Bangladesh is falling behind in this sector.
1. Lack of Tourists from Western Countries
About half of the total tourists that come to Bangladesh are from India. Rest majority of the tourists come from different Asian countries. Around 5% of tourists come from America, but the number of expatriate Bengalis among those tourists is higher. In 2018, the total global expenditure on tourism was $1.7 trillion. Of which, America alone spent $334 billion and Europe spent about $570 billion dollars. In conclusion, the US and Europe spend 53% of the global tourism market altogether. On the other hand, the rate of tourists in Bangladesh is only about 7%, whereas the rest of the popular travel destinations in Asia get about 20%-71% of tourists from foreign countries. This shows how badly we are lagging behind in the tourism sector despite having the potential.
2. Lack of Adequate Security Measurement:
Security is a big issue for foreign tourists. The US State Department has issued a warning against traveling to Dhaka and the South-Eastern region of Bangladesh, citing crime, terrorism, and kidnapping. However, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Safety & Security Index, Bangladesh has improved its rank from 123rd to 105th place. This means that Bangladesh is working diligently on its safety & security keeping tourists in mind.
3. Limitations of the Domestic Airlines System
Domestic airlines play an important role in promoting their country to foreign tourists. Although Biman Bangladesh Airlines represents Bangladesh, the international flight it runs only goes to one country outside Asia which is London. As a result, for the rest of the countries, the travel cost to Bangladesh is relatively higher for tourists. Sadly, our position is 111th in terms of aviation, ranking last in Asia.
4. Extra Cost for Tourists
Travel expenses in Bangladesh are much higher than that of some countries advanced in tourism. Despite higher expenses, the opportunities offered are very few and negligible. This is definitely a big hurdle for us considering other popular travel destinations that are offering better facilities at a lower cost.
5. Lack of Adequate Marketing
Bangladesh Tourism Board was established in 2010 to promote the tourism industry of Bangladesh to the world. A TV commercial about Bangladesh and a website of the Tourism Board were created. The board has been involved in a number of activities such as tourism fairs and exhibitions as well as the inaugural event of the 2011 Cricket World Cup, but has not taken any significant steps since then. The board can definitely take several more marketing strategies that can be adopted to promote the tourism industry in Bangladesh.
6. Lack of Adequate Tourism Infrastructure
Bangladesh ranks 109th in the world in terms of tourism infrastructure. We lag behind all other countries in Asia except Nepal. Our transportation sector, especially, is much underdeveloped. All the roads & highways combined occupy only 7.5% of the total land area of the country. But the number of vehicles that run on them is way too much higher compared to them, so the road-to-vehicle ratio is quite off-putting. As a result, the problem of traffic congestion is increasing by the day. On the other hand, road accidents are also quite frequent in our country. In 2019, about 4580 people died in road accidents. The number is much higher than the previous years which is very concerning. Also, we are lagging behind in terms of tourism services. We are ranked 133rd out of 140 countries.