Bangladesh records 30 pc rise in foreign tourists
‘Virgin’ Sundarbans catches attention of holidaymakers from abroad
Jasim Uddin Khan
DHAKA, JAN 26: Over 20,000 foreign holidaymakers, mostly European and Japanese, visited Bangladesh this winter with a solid 30 per cent year-on-year growth in the trend, thanks to the emergence of Sundarban as unique selling point (USP). A total of 10 local tour operators forged tie-ups with around 50 international operators across Europe, Japan and the USA, and the latter would send those tourists to Bangladeshi operators as their outsource partners. The local operators had handled about 15,000 tourists in the year 2009.
Apart from a stable political scenario, trustworthy security measures in place and standard agreements with reputed international tour operators have helped develop the gradual increase of tourist inflow to the Bangladesh.
These operators earned about USD 22 million by operating the tourists, as European and Japanese tourists spend on an average $800 during their seven-day stay in the country.
Brightwater Holidays, Heritage Group Travel, IBT Travel of the UK, Eurobus Network of Germany, Backdoor Travel of Holland, and IACE Travel and Atlas Tour of Japan signed agreements with Bangladeshi operators to send tourists for Bangladeshi packages.
“We have signed agreements with reputed international tour operators who send European, US and Japanese holidaymakers to Bangladesh under their packages. The growth trend reflects that Bangladesh tourist spots are catching the attention of international holidaymakers,” Chief Executive Officer of Guide Tour Hasan Mansur said. He said Europeans did not have much interest in Bangladesh’s sea beaches and hill district sites. “They are interested in the Sundarbans, as it they find it ‘virgin’ and ‘green tourism spot’.”
Mansur said his company operated over 5,500 tourists in 2010, while Bengal Travel, Journey Plus, Silver-way, Riverine Tour and Green Holiday were the other players who handled the outsourced foreign tourists’ flow.
Bengal Travel top executive Masud Hossain said his company brought about 4,500 tourists, mostly Japanese, this year with a significant growth. Echoing Mansur’s views, Masud said the foreign tourists were interested in the Sundarbans and Bandarban to see the nature of jungle life. “We are mainly showcasing the Sundarbans as the USP to the foreigners and we are getting more and more response from them,” Masud said.
Toufiq Rahman of Journey Plus said they signed agreement with seven Japanese, two UK and two other European operators to handle international tours.
He said after getting package orders, his company issued letter to local deputy commissioners to ensure security of the guests during their journey to the locality. He expressed his satisfaction over the support the law enforcing agencies provided them.
Currently, 10 million tourists are visiting the SAARC countries—India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka—and Afghanistan, while global movement is above one billion tourists per year.
The region’s share of the tourism revenue is only $10 billion out of $852 billion earnings from global tourism.
International arrivals worldwide are expected to reach nearly 1.6 billion by 2020, of which 1.2 billion would be intra-regional and 378 million would be long-haul travellers, predicts UNWTO in its “Tourism 2020 Vision” report on world tourism.
Annisul Huq, former president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and president of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), said South Asia had a huge potential for tourism that needed only some joint efforts to cash in on the same.
He underscored the need for political will of the regional leaders to draw up ambitious plans for doubling the tourist inflow to the region in a decade.