The tourism industry of any country is a profitable industry. Bangladesh is no exception to the fact that tourism can make a huge contribution to the economy of any country. Bangladesh also has many tourist destinations to attract tourists, such as Cox’s Bazar, the Sundarbans, Kuakata, Sylhet, Hilly Districts, Rangamati Kaptai Lake, Paharpur, Mainamati etc.
According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), ecotourism can be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. Such travelling can be created thanks to an international network of individuals, institutions, and the tourism industry where tourists and tourism professionals are educated on ecological issues. At the same time, the Australian National Ecotourism defines ecotourism as “ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.”
Principles of Ecotourism
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles:
- Minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
- Generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry.
- Deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental and social climates.
- Design, construct and operate low-impact facilities.
- Recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in your community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment
Ecotourism in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a country filled with natural wonders and untouched reserves and home to a variety of unique and magnificent creatures. With hills, valleys, forests, beaches, lakes and rivers, ecotourism in Bangladesh is ideal. Although this is still a relatively new form of tourism in Bangladesh, ecotourism is on the rise and extensive efforts are being made to promote it in the country. Bangladesh boasts to having the world’s biggest mangrove forest ecosystem, expansive pristine beach, impressive Hilly Districts (Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban), a massive marine world, the largest lake built by man and the Sundarbans are the most popular spot for ecotourism in Bangladesh. This group of islands is home to the world’s largest mangrove forests. Residing in these verdant forests are Royal Bengal Tigers. Certainly with these vital ecosystems contribute greatly to Bangladesh’s ecotourism potential.
Ecotourism Attractions of Bangladesh
Bangladesh is endowed with various tourist attractions which include archaeological sites, mosques, temples, monuments, modern resorts and a range of tours, including river cruises and boating. Visitors to Bangladesh are invariably brought close to nature. The following are the major tourist attractions.
Cox’s Bazar: This is the tourist capital of Bangladesh with a 120 km long sandy, straight and drivable beach. Thousands of tourists, foreign and local, visit this spot every year. The Inani beach, about 30 km from Cox’s Bazar, toward Teknaf, is a beautiful spot, full of coral stones. Not very far from Cox’s Bazar is the island of Maheskhali, famous for its Buddhist and Hindu temples and a dry fish industry. A trip to Teknaf, about 100 km from Cox’s Bazar, takes a visitor to the southern-most point of Bangladesh. It is simply fascinating. From there, one can go to the coral island of St. Martin by boat. Cox’s Bazar is connected to Chattogram and Dhaka by road and air.
Hilly Districts: The three Hilly Districts of Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban are inhabited by a number of tribes, with their distinctive cultures, rituals and traditions. The picturesque town of Rangamati is about 70 km from the port city of Chattogram. The Kaptai Lake is the largest manmade lake in the sub-continent.
Chattogram: This port city is famous for its harbour and port, beach and hills, a World War II cemetery, the shrines of saints and beautiful mosques. It is the second largest city in the country and is the commercial capital. Sitakund, a holy place for Hindu pilgrims, is only 36 km from Chattogram. Chattogram is connected to Dhaka by road, train and air.
Dhaka: Situated on the bank of the Buriganga River, Dhaka is the national capital. Founded in 1608 AD as the seat of the imperial Mughal Viceroys of Bengal and known over centuries for its silk, muslin and pearls, Dhaka has many interesting attractions. These are the Lalbagh Fort (built in 1678 by Prince Azam, son of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb), the Armenian Church, the Ahsan Manzil Museum (the residence of the Nawabs of Dhaka), the Star Mosque, the National Memorial at Savar, the Central Shadeed Minar (a monument dedicated to the sacred memory of the martyrs of the Language Movement, 1952), Curzon Hall, the National Museum, the Baldah Gardens, the Botanical Garden and the National Park. Sonargaon, one of the oldest capitals of Bengal, is 25 km from the present capital of Dhaka.
Paharpur (Naogaon): This gigantic temple and monastery of the 8th century is by far the most spectacular Buddhist site that has been discovered. It has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Mahasthangar (Bogura): Dating back from the 3rd century BC, this is the earliest known city site in the whole of Bengal. One can see the ruins of in early Buddhist monastery near Mahasthangar.
Dinajpur: Ramsagor Lake and the Kantaji Mandir (built in 1722) are two important attractions in this northern district. The Mandir, with mythological decorations in terracotta, depicts the entire story of Mahabharata.
Sixty Domes Mosque (Bagerhat): Built in 1454, with 77 domes, this is the most magnificent and certainly the largest brick mosque of Bangladesh. The mausoleum in memory of the Muslim mystic Khan Jahan Ali is located here. It has been declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
The Sundarbans: A cluster of islands with an approximate area of 600 km form the largest mangrove forest in the world. This is the abode of the Royal Bengal Tiger and a unique place for ecotourism. Only recently it has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Mainamati (Cumilla): Here the most important place to visit is Mainamati-Lalmai, an extensive centre of Buddhist culture (7th to 12th century), developed during the Chandra and the Deva dynasties.
Sylhet: This is the city of two great saints, Hazrat Shah Jalal (RA) and Hazrat Shah Paran (RA). It is a beautiful area with more than 130 tea gardens. Colourful Manipuri and Khasia tribes with their folk dances and distinct culture are added attractions.
Contribution to GDP
Tourism’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated at 3.02 per cent by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS). This amounts to Tk 76,690.7 crore. The sector also accounted for 8.07 per cent of total employment, according to the BBS’s Tourism Satellite Account 2020, which was based on the data of the fiscal year of 2018-19. So, tourism should be managed as ecotourism that will attract international tourists in Bangladesh.
Ecotourism recognizes the idea of preservation of the nature and the local community’s involvement. Ensuring ecotourism will not only provide quality employment and revenue generation opportunities for local people, but also will impose the preservation of natural resources, environment and the indigenous and/or tribal cultures. Bangladesh is richer than many other countries in its natural, historical and archaeological heritages. However, this fact is not yet reaching the majority of the foreign tourists; as a result, Bangladesh is still its rising stage of flourishing as an ecotourism destination.