Monday, April 28, 2008

Bangladesh: A Tourist Destination?

"I met a couple the other day who said they were tourists. I think they were the last of the hippies. They wanted to find some Italian fathers, so I directed them to the Mission. I think that's the third time I've met someone here, in the last 18 years, who referred to themselves as tourists."

I am in the process of trying to figure out how Jess could obtain a Bangladeshi visa to visit Bangladesh. I have asked everyone I know who has been here for any length of time; everyone has a different story, and none of them are particularly encouraging. It is virtually impossible to obtain a visa on arrival it appears, at least people highly advise against it. So Jess might have to go to Bangkok to get a visa, a long journey to one of the few places in the world with a Bangladeshi Embassy.

Bangladesh does not understand tourism. The one time I thought I had met a tourist in Mymensingh, he turned out to be the writer of a guide book. Bangladesh is not a tourist destination, and I can understand why. I think I have visited 75% of the tourist attractions in this country and I have not always had the most wonderful of experiences. Never mind not having the best experiences, I couldn't imagine trying to get to any of those places without knowing Bengali AND having a guide. They have not made tourism in Bangladesh easy, and it shows, there aren't any tourists.

I have visited a few other countries this year, namely Laos and Nepal and soon to be India. Laos and Nepal understand tourism, granted they are some of the largest tourist destinations in Asia, but there is a reason for that. Firstly, they understand what tourists want, secondly they have the natural beauty to add to a cultural and historical heritage that lends itself to good tourism. But most importantly they try to make the tourist happy. Because happy tourists bring more happy tourists, and happy tourists bring money. Bangladesh could develop tourism. It has areas of natural beauty that would, if preserved and made accessible, be tourist attractions. But first, people here need to realize that tourists are not going to flock to a country that doesn't seem to care if they come or not. And tourists are definitely not going to come to a country that makes it difficult for them to come. Tourism is not the solution to the struggles of Bangladesh. But attracting tourists could provide an income to the country, outside of cheap labour and foreign aid.

As it stands, Bangladesh is not a tourist destination, and until they start having a reliable system and method for tourists to visit, and places for them to see, tourists won't come.


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