March 2, 2024, 4:14 pm

Rajib Kanti Roy

2023-09-27 16:30:50 BdST

Tourism in Bangladesh: Service poor but costly

Despite being a beauty bouquet of nature with a variety of mesmerising destinations, Bangladesh has been failing to tap its tourism potential for years, offering low-quality service at a higher cost than its regional competitors.

Both local and foreign travellers have alleged that tourism service providers in the South Asian country have lack of professionalism and a tendency to make instant profit without assessing the long term benefits of satisfying holidaymakers with comfortable and affordable trip experience.

“I think the cost of tourism-related services is too high here. You can easily enjoy quite better facilities in many other countries spending the same amount of money,” said Tamanna Akhand, senior vice-president of a private bank, following her recent family trip to a resort located in Habiganj.

“There are some good resorts and hotels in Bangladesh, but these cannot provide quality service and charge much higher than the neighbouring countries,” she added.

Tamanna mentions the name of India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Thailand while referring to neighbouring countries. The reality is that Bangladesh is nowhere near the number of foreign tourists who visit these countries every year.

After failing to woo foreign sightseers in expected numbers, Bangladesh’s tourism industry now largely depends on the local travellers.

The country’s economy has grown in size. Some 80,00,000 to 90,00,000 sightseers, mostly people who belong to the middleclass, explore different local tourist spots annually, which multiply the income of tour service providers and boost the economic contribution of the sector to the national GDP.

Therefore, the number of tour operators working with local tourists is increasing in the country.

Mahmudur Rahman Polash has been operating a tour operator agency Flycap Travels for the last one and a half years.

According to him, the main reason for excessive expenditure in tourism establishments in Bangladesh is syndicate business.

“There are different syndicates in tourism spots. If you want to go to Sundarbans targeting a moonlight night, you will find the fares of all ships are increased simultaneously. The situation is the same in the haor region and Sajek valley and Rangamati as well. Such practice really discourages tourists and tour operators,” he said.

High rent of hotel rooms is a key reason that is making tourists bound to count excessive amount of money in spending their holidays in Bangladesh.

The rent of a medium-quality hotel room in the country’s prime tourist city, Cox’s Bazar, is at least USD 60 or Tk 6,500 during the tourist season, while any holidaymaker can stay in a three-star hotel in Thailand, Malaysia and even in some European countries spending same amount of money along with complimentary buffet breakfast.

Besides, excessive travel expenses and costly foods are increasing tourism costs in the country.

For instance, any tourist group needs to spend around Tk 5,000 to hire a boat for exploring Kaptai Lake in Rangamati, while if they individually approach to ride on a boat along with 20 others they have to spend Tk 700 to 1,000 for each.

It is quite difficult for two people to have their lunch or dinner spending Tk 1,000 in a fairly good restaurant in the country, while all the members of a tourist family can complete their lunch or dinner at TBH 265 or Tk 800 in Thailand. Usually local tourists manage time for making trips at a certain time of the year. They choose the winter season as weather suits tour during this time and most educational institutions remains closed.

Besides, trip lovers prefer Eid holidays as well. Consequently, overcrowding of tourists during these times increases travel costs.

“Tourists in our country make most trips in a certain season and tourism spots wear a deserted look in other time of the year. That is why traders make more profit during the peak season. If arrangements were made to attract holidaymakers even in summer or monsoon season, then the anomaly regarding excessive charge would have been avoided,” said Prof Santus Kumar Deb, chairman of the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management at University of Dhaka.

According to him, this peak season dependency makes tourism service costly, offering holidaymakers a bitter experience.

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