September 8, 2008

Status of Bangladesh in global tourism


The current travel and tourism industry is a multi-billion dollar and growing business sector. UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) predicts that global tourism industry will benefit from more than one billion tourists by 2010, growing to 1.6 billion by 2020. This will give tourism the status of the number one industry globally.
In 2005, global travel and tourism generated an estimated $680 billion in expenditures (up from $463 billion in 2001). The number of arrivals was 842 million in 2006 (up from 806 million in 2005 and 688 million in 2001). Despite world recession, threats of terrorism, and social and political unrest, the tourism industry is booming.
Although France ranks number one among the world's 10 top destinations with about 76 million arrivals, US earns most: about $82 billion. Americans also spend more on travel and tourism. They are interested even in space tourism.
Immediately after independence, the government set up Bangladesh Parjatan Sangstha (Bangladesh Tourism Organization), with a view to develop this industry. The organization was renamed as Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation in 1973.
The 2007 economic review of the corporation states: "The foremost objectives of the corporation are to promote tourism in Bangladesh, build up positive image of the country abroad, elevate infrastructure at tourism sites, provide services to the tourists and develop tourist resources that exist in Bangladesh, creating employment opportunity in different sectors of this industry which is helpful to alleviate poverty."
I am not sure how the corporation will achieve its cherished objectives, as its profit margin decreases every year. Its 2007 economic review shows that it made a profit of Taka 115 million during 1996-2001. The figure came down to Taka 55 million during 2001-2006, although Table 1 shows that the tourist arrivals increased during this period. In 2005, Bangladesh received 208,000 tourists, which is about 5% of what India received; it is 52%, 55%, 26% and 31% of what Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka received respectively that year.
In 2004, Bangladesh earned about $67 million (Table 2) as foreign exchange earnings from tourists (those who came with tourist visa, not necessarily that they spent their money on tourism alone), which is 1.4% of what India earned; it is 14%, 26%, 9%, and 8% of what Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka earned respectively in that year.
This clearly shows that Bangladesh remains far behind neighboring countries, although it formulated a National Tourism Policy in 1992 where tourism was identified as an industry of due priority. The country's 1999 industrial policy identified tourism as a thrust sector!
Today, there are about 150 private tour operators in the country, and 78 of them formed an association called TOAB (Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh) in 1992. No Bangladesh tour operator works abroad, and no foreign tour operators work in Bangladesh.
TOAB claims that they cater to 95% of the tourists who arrive in the country. They also host most of the domestic tourists. However, they do not have any statistics on how many tourists they host every year, how big their private industry is, or what their contribution to the government treasury is.
TOAB feels that the National Tourism Policy 1992 has never been made effective. Although Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation and TOAB do not have effective cooperation at the moment, there is a feeling in both the organizations that there is much more they can do together. TOAB feels that Bangladesh's proximity to fast growing countries like India and China may allow it to share the benefits of their growth.

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