Arriving on the trail

AKM Moinuddin
Wednesday, August 9th, 2017


With Sabrang, the government hopes to get a slice of the enormous pie in global tourism.


Global tourism, over the past decades, has witnessed remarkable growth. With increasing ‎diversification and growing number ‎of new destinations, tourism today has become one of the fastest growing contributors to the global economy. ‎Thus, tourism sector has turned into a key driver for socio-‎economic progress.‎


The contribution of tourism to economic welfare depends on the quality and the ‎revenues of the tourism offer. As the UN agency ‎dedicated to tourism, UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) points out that particularly developing countries stand to ‎benefit from sustainable tourism and acts to help make this a reality.‎


To that end, Bangladesh government is moving ahead to have its first exclusive tourism park in Cox’s Bazar to transform the tourism industry developing world-class luxury hotels and ensuring modern facilities like other countries which bring sun-seekers to beaches.


Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) has taken the initiative – ‘Sabrang Tourism’ — encompassing an area of around 1,100 acres adorned by an amazing hill and sea beach territory. The project site contains exclusive beach front and half-an-hour sea cruise to St. Martin, the country’s only coral island.


“A feasibility study on the establishment of Sabrang Exclusive Tourism Zone has been completed,” BEZA Executive Chairman Paban Chowdhury told Dhaka Courier.


He said a draft summary has been sent to the Prime Minister’s Office seeking CCEA’s (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) approval for appointing Chittagong Dry Dock Limited (CDDL) to construct an embankment for protecting the Exclusive Tourism Park.


The BEZA chief said they are also working on sending another proposal over land filling and developing a drainage system for the zone. Some 884 acres of land, according to BEZA officials, have already been acquired while the initial site assessment has also been completed.


The main attractions or – to use a World Heritage Committee term- what gives the area its ‘outstanding universal value’, are the pure air, lofty hill, sea and lagoon create perfect conditions for the development of all types of tourism entertainment at Sabrang, which falls in Teknaf upazila under Cox’s Bazar district.


Director of Tour Operators’ Association of Bangladesh (Toab) Taufiq Rahman welcomed the decision and said inbound tourism will certainly flourish in the country if it is properly implemented.


“If you want to encourage inbound tourism, foreigners must be given something exclusive. It exists in other parts of the world. There should be separate facilities for foreign and local tourists,” Taufiq, also founder Chief Executive of Journey Plus, told Dhaka Courier.


He said they had tried to attract foreign tourists to Cox’s Bazar in the past but failed as they did not get what they want as part of leisure tourism.


“Foreigners, as part of their leisure travels, want sunbathe. They want to take part in beach activities relatively more openly. They want to drink. They want entertainment,” said the tourism expert adding that is not possible now in Bangladesh’s open beach given the country’s social norms.


Taufiq, also secretary general of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Bangladesh Chapter, said the success depends on which model the government follows to attract foreign tourists in the truest sense.


BEZA has also kept security issues in mind as the site is close to Myanmar border and is planning to invite foreign tourists through Myanmar smoothly having a stopover there. Myanmar receives huge foreign tourists every year.


“I don’t think security issues will be a matter of concern,” said the Toab leader explaining the prospects of the BEZA plan.


He said around 30 kilometers of beach from Cox’s Bazar to Inani are already occupied by various commercial establishments. “So, we need to think of proper utilization of the remaining 90 kilometers of beach if we claim that it’s a 120-kilometer beach.”


BEZA officials said they would prioritise private investors in the Sabrang Exclusive Tourism Zone — both from home and abroad.


They want to see Sabrang as the most modern and international tourism zone in the country which will help increase the flow of foreign tourists as many global tourism spots are developed on shores.


The proposed park is 5 km away from Teknaf town. Cox’s Bazar-Sabrang Marine Drive is the access road to the proposed park and this connects to the National Highway in a stretch of 5 km. Cox’s Bazar Airport is at a distance of 96 km from the proposed park. The journey from the airport to the proposed park takes around 1.5 hours of travel time by road.


Teknaf Land Port is only 9 km from the zone and the Naaf River is only 8 km from zone.


Hotel complexes, eco-tourism, recreational tourism, business tourism, sports, water tourism, education and health tourism are planned to develop there. Bangladesh needs to go for an increased business-to-business tourism events in the country to promote tourism and increase flow of foreigners giving a boost to the national economy, says a tourism sector leader.


“Bangladesh should go for more B2B events. The government should allocate a fund to host such B2B fairs. You need to attract global tourism buyers with due care,” Rezaul Ekram, Bangladesh chapter president of South Asia Tourism Federation told Dhaka Courier.


Rezaul also sought the national flag carrier’s support saying tourism does not flourish anywhere in the world without national carrier’s support.


“Foreign tourism product buyers, who are willing to take part in tourism fairs here, should be given special discounts for availing national carrier’s tickets,” he said.


Being relatively new on the global tourism trail, Bangladesh has all the potential to grow if the initiatives are implemented properly, tourism sector officials feel.

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