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The Problems And Prospects Of Tourism In Bangladesh Tourism Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Tourism
Wordcount: 5402 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Bangladesh is home to numerous flora and fauna and possesses many panoramic beauties but most of them are unexplored. Having all the minimum requirements, the tourism industry could not develop adequately in the country due to the unwillingness of the governments. Currently, minimum infra-structural arrangement is developing, role of government is now positive, private and public organizations have step forward side by side to attract the local and foreign tourists, researchers, dignitaries and foreign delegates. The aim of the research is to identify the challenges and future prospects of the industry. This study will facilitate the decision makers to assess the intensity of the problem and to plan accurate measures for the development of tourism industry in Bangladesh which might contribute a big share in the GDP of Bangladesh.

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The researcher has chosen this research topic out of his personal interest: Bangladesh is his homeland and is blended in his blood and flesh. Apathy of the previous governments led the researcher to explore the challenges and future possibilities of the tourism sector in Bangladesh. The researcher expects to emphasize the future development of tourism here in comparison with other regional and global tourist destinations.

Research Question

Located on the north-eastern side of the South Asian subcontinent, Bangladesh – a flat alluvial plain, criss-crossed by the world’s three mighty river systems, is bordered by India in the east, west and north; Myanmar in the south-east and by the bay of Bengal in the south. The land mass of 144,000 sq.km is home to nearly 140 million people. Covered with virgin forests, the slopes and valleys of the country are home to numerous flora and fauna. The world’s largest mangrove forest and the habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Sundarbans is located in the south. In the south-east, the country has a 120 km long, perhaps the world’s longest beach of soft silvery sand in a Riviera-like setting with crescent-shaped low hills overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh is endowed with natural resources and the potential for a tourism industry. The main focus of this research aims to answer the question:

What problems does Bangladesh face and what might be the prospects as a tourist destination?

In order to analyse the terminology, ‘problems’ and ‘prospects,’ the researcher is not only required to explore both positive and negative aspects but also to highlight the past scenario along with the future assessment of tourism in Bangladesh. For answering the research question efficiently, the following aims are set.


To identify the challenge tourism industry currently facing.

To explore the future possible development.

To illustrate the role of the public and private sector in developing tourism in Bangladesh.

In order to successfully conduct the research, the above stated aims require precise objectives. That is why the researcher has applied the following objectives.


To review academic literature relating to tourism development.

To examine secondary documents relating to the challenges and development of tourism in Bangladesh.

Suggest recommendation for the future development of tourism industry in Bangladesh based on the literature and stakeholders’ views.

The researcher has adopted a qualitative methodology for conducting this research most effectively. This research includes the view of the representatives from government bodies and private sector business-owners. Data from such organizations and freelance journalists and their opinions on tourism planning, problems and prospects are analysed in conducting the research paper which has helped the researcher to offer recommendations at the destination.

Tourism is not associated with aristocracy any more rather every person can afford now. With the passage of time, it has grown to such dimensions that it is considered as an important industry. The promotion of tourism as an industry serves multi-pronged interest which includes preserving cultural heritage, protecting arts and culture, interaction of different religion, exchange of views, and generation of foreign exchange and so on.

For last couple of years, Bangladesh has been highlighted as an attractive destination for tourists. Sundarbans and Cox’s Bazar have been included in the worldwide New7Wonders of Nature campaign among more than 440 candidate locations from 220 countries. “World leading publisher of travel guides and guidebooks, Lonely Planet, last year recommended Bangladesh as one of the top ten interesting travel destination in 2009” (Views On Tourism, 2008). Therefore, the aim of the researcher is to explore the challenges and opportunities relating to the development of tourism in Bangladesh. The areas of literature in this paper include tourism in the developing world, tourism in South Asia and sustainable tourism planning and development. A context chapter on tourism industry in Bangladesh is also included to provide more detailed information.

The researcher has tried to depict the scenario of current challenges and future opportunities of tourism industry in Bangladesh through his research paper but it does not reflect the entire picture of the emerging industry. Thus, future researchers can be conducted considering the research paper as a case study.

Literature Review

The Tourism Industry

“Tourism comprises the activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited.” (UNWTO)

According to Mathieson and Wall, tourism is the temporary movement of people from their natural places of living or work to destinations, their activities, and the amenities and services to meet their needs. Each and every destination has impact on the area or the country. A Destination opens the door to demonstrate cultural heritage, exchange views, generate foreign exchange, develop the employment scenario, and strengthen the revenue reserve of the government and so on. Negative impacts include loss of cultural identity, environmental damage, and spread of infectious disease.

Figure 1: Butler’s Tourist Lifecycle (Source: Destination Recovery Services, 2007)

Butler, in his article proposed a widely-accepted model of the lifecycle of a tourist destination. The basic idea his model is that a destination begins as a relatively unknown and visitors initially come in small numbers restricted by lack of access, facilities, and local knowledge. As more people discover the destination, the word spreads about its attractions and the amenities which results into rapid development and expansion of business. Future of the destination fluctuates very much depending on the discovery, more improved amenities of another destination.

Demand of any destination is related to more and more investment because tourists wish to experience new and exceptional facilities and ambiences. Popularity of a destination depends on a number of factors and the tourism industry is very uncertain (McElroy & Albuquerque, 2002). Without frequent renovation, a destination cannot draw the attention of the tourists. Political unrests, financial turmoil, natural disasters, epidemic diseases, terrorist threats and lack of security can turn down the popularity of a destination.

Tourism in the Developing World and in South Asia

Tourists now find European and North American destinations less attractive and intend to travel to LDCs (Telfer and Sharpley, 2008). One of the reasons is rapid emergence of tourism in LDCs and another is financial advantages than the traditional destinations from the first world. Tourism operations by MNCs in LDCs create new opportunities and different kind of arrangement which the tourists always look for.

Most of the South Asian countries are booming in their tourism sectors. Among all the South Asian nations, India and the Maldives receive the most foreign currencies. Sri Lanka is not behind the race and the policy makers of the country declared 2010 as the year of tourism. They are promoting their twelve different components throughout the year. The Maldives is one of the sensual and honeymoon destinations of the world. Each and every state of India is also promoting their own state in every way possible.

The authority of Bangladesh at last realised the importance of tourism development to add extra revenue to the GDP of the country. Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism along with PPP has agreed to bring the tourism industry of the country forward. GoB has already declared to observe 2011 as the year of tourism and allocated Tk. 2.83 billion for the FY 2010-11 (Ministry of Finance), the highest ever allocation in tourism sector. Private sectors are more concerned in building infrastructures i.e. hotels, motels, resorts, amusement parks.

Sustainable Tourism

Four types of stakeholders including government authorities, the local business community, the local community and visitors remain involved in tourism at any destination (Bushell, 2001). For developing a successful tourist destination, the stakeholders are required to formulate an integrated plan. If all stakeholders do their part accordingly and remain responsible for their own actions, the sector of tourism will surely flourish.

“Sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.” (UNWTO)

For successful sustainability programme awareness, understanding and commitment to sustainability goals from management and staff are required (Speck, 2002). According to Butler’s (1980 cited in Weaver, 2006) Destination Life Cycle, unmonitored and unplanned tourism development resulting into ultimate weakness which may shake the foundation of tourism.

Proper facilities and accommodation is one of the first conditions for implementing sustainable tourism. It also requires assurance of booming of a destination and continuous investment to keep the pace of development. It also need be ensure the ecological balance, conservation and biodiversity. Sustainable tourism should not change or spoil the cultural resources, national and social values.

Context Chapter

Tourism in Bangladesh

Figure 2: Map of Bangladesh (Source: Lonely Planet, 2010)

Now-a-days, traditional tourist interest on some selected countries has changed. They now intend to explore new areas avoiding the over-crowded destinations. By identifying this changing behavior and trend in global tourist movement, many countries have developed their own tourism industry. Bangladesh is holding high potentiality for tourism. This sector might result multiplier effect on the country’s economy by not only earning foreign currencies but also creating new job opportunities for the huge unemployed population. Realising the fact, GoB has decide to observe 2011 as the year of tourism to acquaint the people with the country’s tourist resources.


Geographical Coordinates

24 00 N, 90 00 E


56977 sq. miles or 147570 sq. km.




Taka (TK)

Local Time

GMT + 6


156,118,464 (July 2010 est.)


Tropical; mild winter (October to March); hot, humid summer (March to June); humid, warm rainy monsoon (June to October)

Visitor Arrivals (in 2005)

207,662Table 1: Bangladesh Statistics (Bangladesh Pocket Year Book, 2009; The World Factbook)

Tourism sector in Bangladesh is mainly supervised by public sector. Government regulates the tourism sector through Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC), the National Tourism Organization (NTO). With the twofold responsibility of development and promotion of tourism, BPC was established in the year 1972 and commenced business as a Corporation in January 1973. BPC, a semi-autonomous organization is responsible for providing tourism services to construct and run hotels, restaurants, operate duty free shops, transportation and car rental, establish and administer tourism training institution. NTO, on the other hand, is mainly a tourism service provider and promoter of tourism product. To foster the rapid growth of the tourism industry, GoB declared the National Tourism Policy in 1992.

Figure 3: Foreign Exchange Earnings from Tourism & Other Travels (1996-2005) [Source: Bangladesh Parjatan Corpotation]

The tourism industry of Bangladesh has received around Tk. 550 million between 1972 and 2006 while PPP has invested Tk. 1.8 billion on twenty tourism projects FY 2010-11. However, the GoB has realized the importance of tourism sector and shifted from their previous position since FY 2009-10. GoB has allocated Tk. 2.28 billion in the national budget of FY 2009-10 while allocation in 2010-11 amounts Tk. 2.83 billion (MoF, 2010) for the tourism sector. World class accommodation is one of the highest priorities to boost the tourism industry of any country. That is why, nearly 500 hotels, 40 resorts and 15 amusement parks (New Age, 2005) have been built at popular tourist destinations, including Dhaka, Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Sylhet, Bogra and Khulna during the last two years.

Bangladesh possesses the Sundarbans – the mangrove forest in the world, Cox’s Bazaar – the longest natural beach in the whole planet, the exotic tea gardens in Sylhet, the beautiful hills in Rangamati and Bandarban, the wonderful sights and sounds in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the brilliant natural scenery in Foy’s Lake, the centuries old Buddhist monasteries and so on. Such places of interest in have managed to attract tourists to Bangladesh from each corner of the world which is reflected in the increasing number of tourist arrival in the country. A total of 165,887 tourists arrived from more than 76 countries in 1996 which increased to 207,662 in 2005 (Appendix 1). Moreover, foreign exchange earnings from tourism has increased from Tk. 33.59 million in 1996 to Tk. 69.91 million in 2005 (Appendix 2).


A theoretical approach provides a “guiding framework for analyzing and interpreting the data” (Finn, 2000). It helps a researcher to remain consistent while collecting data and knowledge form them (Jennings, 2001). There are a number of theoretical approaches for research but only very few are appropriate (Veal, 2006).

Conducting the research, the researcher has mainly used secondary data and qualitative methodologies. Qualitative methodologies are associated with the interpretive approach of research (Veal, 2006). Jennings (2001) mentions researcher-participants subjective relationship as well as the participants considering the researcher as an “insider”. Unstructured research design, data displayed in textual form, highlighting key themes and a specific study setting are other qualitative features (Veal, 2006).

The advantage of using secondary data is the freedom from arbitration “by the interaction between the researcher and researched” (Jennings, 2001). Data from MoF, BPC, MoCAT, SB, and NTO mainly helped to have a clear idea about the condition of tourism in Bangladesh from government’s view. Future suggestions for sustainable tourism in Bangladesh by the authorities of Jamuna Resort, Padma Resort, Foy’s Lake Resort and Motel Atlantis have helped the researcher in conducting the research successfully.

The data collected from different sources has been analysed to assess the future growth of the economy of Bangladesh. One major problem in collecting data on tourism in Bangladesh is that there is no updated database in any authorities of the government nor the private sector has any recent statistics on the sector. Government bodies are rather non-cooperative rather than the private tourist operators.

Jamuna Resort, Padma Resort, Foy’s Lake Resort and Motel Atlantis authorities only provided their suggestion for creating a tourism friendly environment in the country. As most of the government bodies in Bangladesh have linked to internet in 2010 and most of the officials do not have email address, they could not be reached. Data from BPC and MoCAT have covered most of the data collected on the present scenario of tourism in Bangladesh.

Most of the tourist facilities are offered by the private sector but do not posses any data on tourism in Bangladesh as they are only concern about their business. However, suggestions provided by the private sector tourist operators have also been added in the research paper so that the policy makers can consider them while formulating future policies for sustainable tourism in Bangladesh.

Result and Analysis

For conducting the research successfully, primary and secondary data has been compiled and sectioned into several themes. The challenges and opportunities of tourism in Bangladesh have been identified through the analysis of data. It not only identifies the possibilities of tourism sector in Bangladesh but also forecasts the tourism potential of the country. The outcomes of the analysis are enlisted here:

Tourists visiting Bangladesh

Data from BPC and SB reveals the nationality and real purpose of the tourist visiting Bangladesh. Tastes of the tourists vary from person to person, even region to region; so, it is better to understand the tourist pattern of the country.

Types of Tourists

Analysing the data it is found that tourists visit Bangladesh mainly on three purposes. However, higher percentage of 42 visits on business purpose while 23 percent visit for pleasure. Representative of BPC stated that the percentage of tourist visiting for pleasure is increasing day by day as the tourism products of the country are improvising rapidly.

Figure 4: Purpose of the tourists for visiting (Source: BPC)

Nationality of Tourists






E/A & Pacific








Table 2: Foreign Visitor Arrivals by Region 2005 (Source: BPC)Data analysis of the year 2005 shows that 48 percent tourists visiting the country are from the Asian nations while visitors from Europe hold the second position with 24 percent. Percentage of tourist arrival from Asia Pacific, America, Africa and Middle East are 17, 9, 1 and 1 percent respectively. The number of tourists from SAARC countries total 99010 which means only 449 tourists from the rest of Asian nations have visited the country in 2005.

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Tourism Products in Bangladesh

Tourists naturally compares the products a destination is offering with another one for ensuring the proper utilization of both money and time as well as peace of mind, relaxation, perfect ambience, improved accommodation and so on. Therefore, it is the duty of the policymakers of a destination to take necessary action for providing the tourism products to the tourists according to the demand.


World class accommodation is one of the highest priorities to boost the tourism industry of any country. In the previous years both the public and private sector have realised the need of accommodation of higher standard in the country. That is why, nearly 500 hotels, 40 resorts and 15 amusement parks (New Age, 2005) have been built at popular tourist destinations, including Dhaka, Cox’s Bazar, Chittagong, Sylhet, Bogra and Khulna during the last two years. Even the government run BPC has increased their area of coverage to 16 regions with 5 hotels, 17 motels and one cottage.

Tourism Product

Bangladesh with three World Heritage Sites – Mahasthangarh, Mosque City of Bagerhat and the Sundarbans, has a lot to offer to the tourists. World’s longest 120 km long sandy beach of Cox’s Bazar along with Patenga, Parki, Teknaf, St. Martin Island and Kuakata beach will definitely quench the thirst of beach lovers. The beauty of the largest mangrove forest in the world, the Sundarbans, can amaze anyone while travelling in steam boats and experiencing the diversity and ecosystem of the forest.

The lake district of Rangamati, the lake town of Kaptai, the hilltop town of Khagrachhari and the roof of Bangladesh: Bandarban will bring the tourists close to nature they may not have gone before. Archeological sites of Buddhists monasteries, Hindu temples and Muslim mosques and palaces can educate the tourist seeking archeological knowledge of South Asia and Bangladesh. Besides these, there are many places of interest in the country which might draw the attractions of the tourists.

Impacts of Tourism

National and global impacts of tourism influence the overall situation of a country concerning its economy, socio-economic condition, ecology and environment. Tourism enriches economy, exchanges social and cultural values, and conserves nature; however, it has some negative impacts as well.

Economic Impact

Tourists contribute to sales, profits, jobs, tax revenues, and income in an area or a country. Tourism activity normally focuses on changes in sales, income, and employment in a region. Thus, the economic benefits of tourism are well documented. In case of Bangladesh, contribution of tourism in the economy of the country is gradually increasing. The contribution of the sector is expected to get higher in the forthcoming years due to gigantic investment of public and private sector. The contribution of travel & tourism to GDP is expected to rise from 3.9% (Tk. 265.9 billion) in 2010 to 4.1% (Tk. 788.4 billion) by 2020 (WTTC, 2007). It is also anticipated to create an employment opportunity of 2,373,000 in 2010 which might increase to 3,114,000 by 2010. In the current year, an estimated amount of Tk. 64.0 billion is expected to be invested in travel & tourism sector.

It is not necessary that tourism has all positive impacts. Tourism is closely associated with uncontrolled, unsustainable and massed tourism growth. With a purpose of making money by selling experiences, tourism is mainly dominated by private enterprises. Market led planning can fail to achieve the objectives of sustainable tourism. Like all industries, impacts do occur, but the extent to which impacts are negative can be minimised.

Socio-Cultural Impact

An interface for cultural exchange, tourism facilitates the interaction between communities and visitors. As travels means to discover those things unknown or forgotten within ourselves, people want to interact with other cultures, learn about traditions and even confront themselves with new perspectives on life and society. Tourism can serve as a supportive force for peace, foster pride in cultural traditions and help avoid urban relocation by creating local jobs. The society can take the valuable aspects of another society vis-à-vis culture through tourism. The more one knows and learns about a destination, the more fulfilling the experience would be.

As tourism involves movement of people to different geographical locations, and establishment of social relations between people who would otherwise not meet, cultural clashes can take place as a result of differences in cultures, ethnicity, religion, values, lifestyles, languages, and levels of prosperity. The interest shown by tourists also contributes to the sense of self-worth of the artists and helps to conserve a cultural tradition, cultural erosion due to the commoditization of cultural goods.

Environmental Impact

Tourism has beneficial effects on the environment by contributing to environmental protection and conservation. It raises the awareness of environmental values and can serve as a tool to finance protection of natural areas. Most of the national parks are now conserved by the public administration due to the rising demand of tourism. The GoB has decided to conserve all the forests, places of natural beauties and build a marine park at Cox’s Bazar to draw the attraction of the tourists from the each corner of the world.

Development of tourism can gradually destroy the environmental resources on which it depends. Land and water witness the most negative impacts of tourism in the country. For the development of the sector, more and more lands are used to build infrastructure to create facilities for the tourists resulting to the shortage of land and water as well. Sewerage littering, deforestation, air and noise pollution are some of the many negative impacts of tourism on environment.


“Destinations interested in attracting foreign visitors and in developing sustainable tourist industries depend heavily on traveller perceptions of safety and peace”

(Sonmez, 2002: 176).

The aim of the research is to identify the challenges that the sector of tourism is facing currently and to asses the future as well. Tourism of Bangladesh has not flourished yet due to the unwillingness of the previous government. MoCAT has the highest allocation of Tk. 2.83 billion since the independence of the country in 1971. PPP is also working efficiently for fostering the growth of tourism with the financing from MNCs.

Bangladesh as a tourist destination has many things to offer: beaches, hillside, forests, waterfall, historical and archeological sites, amusement parks and many more. The country is now on the track to enrich the tourism sector like the other nations for a better contribution on the GDP. The lack of world-class accommodation near all places of interests is now under construction which may result into more tourist arrival in the country.

“If tourism is to be successful in the future, public and management must strive for all four goals: enhanced visitor satisfactions, improved economy and business success, sustainable resource use, and community and area integration.”

(Gunn with Var, 2002: 105)

All the forecast during the research indicate the rapid growth of tourism in Bangladesh. Now, the question is whether the growth will be sustainable or not. It is the responsibility of the government as well as the private sector to emerge the tourism for sustainability so that it can conserve the environment, socio-cultural structure and contribute revenue to the economy to make Bangladesh a middle-income country by 2021 (year of silver jubilee of independence).

Suggestions for the Future Development of Tourism

The four private tourism operator of Bangladesh have provided the following recommendations for the future development of tourism in the country.

Improved transport system

Infrastructural development of tourism industry

Uninterrupted power supply

Development of human resources in the sector of tourism

Preservation of places of natural beauty

Improved marketing strategy of the government

Proper planning of the government for ensuring sustainable tourism


Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (2010) Statistical Pocket Book – 2009 [Online] Available: http://www.bbs.gov.bd/WebTestApplication/userfiles/Image/SubjectMatterDataIndex/pk_book_09.pdf [November 23, 2010]

Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (2010) Foreign Exchange Earnings fron Tourism & Other Travels (1996-2005) [Online] Available: http://www.bangladeshtourism.gov.bd/2006_resource_center_foreign_sh3.php [November 21, 2010]

Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (2010) Foreign Visitor Arrivals by Region 2005 [Online] Available: http:// http://www.bangladeshtourism.gov.bd/2006_resource_center_foreign_sh6.php#2 [November 21, 2010]

Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (2010) Visitor Arrivals by Nationality (1996-2005) [Online] Available: http://www.bangladeshtourism.gov.bd/2006_resource_center_foreign_sh8_vistorArriaval.php#3 [November 21, 2010]

Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (2010) Foreign Exchange Earnings from Tourism & Other Travels (1996-2005) [Online] Available: http://www.bangladeshtourism.gov.bd/2006_resource_center_foreign_sh3.php [November 21, 2010]

Bushell, R. (2001) ‘Practice, Provision and Impacts’, In Douglas, N.; Douglas, N.; Derrett, R. (Eds) (2001) Special Interest Tourism, Queensland: John Wiley and Sons Australia

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Methods: data collection, analysis and interpretation, Essex: Pearson Education


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Edition, London: Routledge

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Ministry of Finance (2010) Development Expenditure by Ministry [Online] Available: http://www.mof.gov.bd/en/budget/10_11/brief/en/st10.pdf?phpMyAdmin=GqNisTr562C5oxdV,EruqlWwoM5 [November 21, 2010]

New Age (2005) Private sector leads country’s tourism booms [Online] Available: http://www.newagebd.com/2010/jun/14/busi.html [November 23, 2010]

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Appendix 1

Email to Private Operators

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am conducting a research study as part of a Bachelor’s degree in International Tourism and Hospitality Management at EThames Graduate College in London, England. My research exa


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