We have been picking our brains hard to find a creative solution to the task of shoring up the stagnating tourism sector in Bangladesh. In spite of its location-centred magnetism, how long would Bangladesh languish on the side-line of a relatively peacetime globe-girdling tourism industry when comes its turn?
Currently, of course, we take the centre-spot of international media. The conscientious world is beholden to us for the unending, often prevaricated Rohingya crisis, our benevolent sheltering of the numerous hapless victims of ethnic cleansing and our turning into destination for crisis-management trips.
What bearing all this will have through an enhanced image of Bangladesh only time will unravel.
Back on tourism, we were told by the minister concerned that an increasing domestic appetite for seeing places within the country is being observed and whetted. Very well, from the point of view of patriotism, but how far it works as a prerequisite for injecting an impetus to international travelling into the country remain an open to question.
Foreigner arrivals have been incidental to Dhaka or Chittagong on the side-line of their main business itineraries for cities in South or South-East Asia. In the hard, competitive business world, the sure-fire way to fall by the wayside is to be content with consolation prizes! The only thing, we came by, however, to break the monotony and mental barrier was the news last year that at least a dozen global franchise hotels had thrown their hats in the ring to set up branches in Dhaka in near future. It goes without saying unless they were certain of returns they wouldn’t have come forward to invest.
At long last, however, a silver bullet has fallen on our palm, courtesy of the least expected yet very plausible quarters! Two recent news headlines in the print media have helped me grasp the true meaning of the phrase “breaking new grounds”. The first one reads almost like a revelation: “Tourism industry thrives on seminars, conventions” (Dhaka Tribune; July 16); and the second one under the story line—Another Bangladesh—titled, “Bangladesh-made toys find their way into the hands of European children” (Prothom Alo; November 6).
Exactly a year and a fortnight since the Holey Artisan terror attack had set the alarm bell ringing, almost globally, about safety of foreigners in Dhaka, the news of “tourism thriving on seminars and conventions” in Bangladesh marks a sea change. It means a whole lot of things interwoven on four levels; government, private sector event management including sponsorships, tour and travel operators and the citizens.
Of course, the objective conditions would have been far from ideal had law enforcers not prevented some planned terror attacks, busted their dens and seized the caches of weapons. But the gaps in counter-terrorism capabilities will have to be bridged keeping in view the new incarnations the cornered global terrorist outfits might try to appear in. A guarded normalcy that has been restored to the streets will have to be maintained with undiminished vigil by effective community policing.
We dare to believe, with the counter-terror units by our side and trial and punishment of those fleeing law, that we have bounced back as a resilient city. We are prepared to redeem on our traditional hospitality duly underpinned by a marked improvement in our tourist infrastructure within expanding special zones beyond the capital city. But we must strive to uphold the human rights standards at any cost as a marker of a progressive society we should be priding on.
That “Bangladesh is emerging as a new destination for meetings, incentives, conventions, incentives and exhibitions,” acronymed as MICE is an auspicious piece of news.
On the toy-making front our export growth has been 2000 percent in five years. Bangladesh is the fastest toy exporting country after Myanmar, Cambodia, Nepal, Laos Seychelles, Bhutan grossing USD 58.3 million. Seven years back the figure was seven thousand dollars only. We have two factories in the EPZ and a few outside its perimeter. In Gazipur, an industry, belonging to a Chinese Multi-tech international group is located. We trade toys with France, Spain and Japan.
With our strong handicraft tradition, we can prosper in the trade manifold. We need to get into high-tech, educational toy manufacture.
At one time, Taiwan, a resource-short country, was heavily reliant on toys. In fact, its graduation to electronics where it is a respected name was helped by it.