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Tapping tourism potential crucial to BD economy: USAID

Despite enormous potential of tourism in Bangladesh, the sector is facing different challenges like inadequate infrastructure, high cost of doing business and lack of branding, according to a study.

Other challenges include concentrated tourist attractions, absence of promotional activity and poor certification policy, said the report prepared by USAID Bangladesh.

The report titled ‘Comprehensive Private Sector Assessment’ was unveiled recently with a view to identifying some private sectors which can help boost the country’s economy through revenue and job creation.

According to the report, Bangladesh is enriched with both natural and manmade tourism attractions which could draw more tourists upon a comprehensive plan to promote the sector.

“Despite increasing global interest in the country, Bangladesh could not come up with a well-coordinated plan to strengthen the sector yet,” it added.

Bangladesh is blessed with natural beauty, ranging from mountains, rivers, beaches, biodiversity, ancient archaeological sites, medieval monasteries to temples, pagodas, mosques, churches and many more, it said.

As per the report, Bangladesh has been ranked seventh out of ‘top ten best value’ travel destinations for 2019 launched by Lonely Planet, a global leader of travel guidebook publisher.

Reaping full benefits of the tourism potential is crucial to the overall economy of the country, the report noted.

The growth of the tourism industry also has a direct positive impact on the development of rural communities, it said.

“Bangladesh’s tourism industry is highly driven by MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) especially in the restaurant, region-based hotels, tour operators, and recreational activity,” it added.

In 2017, the tourism industry’s direct contribution was reported to be $5.3 billion, which was approximately 2.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Bangladesh, the report said, adding that it is expected to rise by 6.8 per cent per year to $7.5 billion by 2028.

The tourism sector currently enjoys no fiscal support from the government like cash incentive, tax holiday and value-added tax (VAT) exemption on import, the report said.

However, there are some non-fiscal supports for the sector like initiative by the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) to prepare a tourism master plan, and identification as a potential sector by the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA).

According to the report, there are proposals to establish tourism-based economic zones (EZs) to attract more foreign tourists.

There is a wide range of opportunities to help boost the country’s tourism sector through proper use of proposed EZs, growing domestic aviation, raising the number of business visitors, and exploring new inbound destinations and blue economy initiatives.

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