Prof. Dr. Md. Wasiul Islam :

According to UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), ‘Tourism is a social, cultural and economic phenomenon which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment for personal or business/professional purposes. Tourism is considered as a powerhouse particularly for its economic contributions which is the third highest world category in export earnings in 2018 (after behind fuels and chemicals), representing 10% of world GDP, 30% of services exports and 1 out of every 10 jobs in the world.

Sustainable tourism development meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future. It is considered as leading concept to management of all resources in a manner that economic, social, and aesthetic requirements can be satisfied maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems. Sustainable tourism is environmentally, socially, culturally, and economically sustainable; educational; locally participatory and an aid to conservation. It includes sustainable use of resources including biological resources and minimizes environmental, ecological, cultural, and social impacts and maximizes benefits. Sustainable tourism wishes sustainability of the market to ascertain the long-run tourism business survival and how the best way to maintain the profitability of the firms.

‘Ecotourism’, ‘responsible tourism’, ‘environment-friendly tourism’, ‘green tourism’, etc. are some of the examples of sustainable tourism which are becoming popular considering their destinations, people, and profit. Sustainable tourism indicators are alike the sustainability indicators which are about integrating tourism to its environmental and socio-cultural context that facilitates sustainable development through improving the status of socio-cultural, economic, environmental, and institutional dimensions of a tourism destination.

Considering the contributions of tourism sector in world economy, sustainable tourism is capable to achieve directly and indirectly almost all (17 Goals) the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the targeted timeframe i.e., 2030. Tourism has the power to influence the achievement of these goals set for the whole world that will guide to a better future for all.

Tourism has significant contributions towards economic growth and development at all levels and provide income through new job creation (direct and indirect) which shaped tourism as one of the largest and fastest growing economic sectors in the world and thus contributing towards poverty eradication. Such economic growth is directly related linked with many other SDGs.

Following the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (2011) developed for assessing sustainable tourism performance are classified under the following four main themes: (i) effective sustainability planning (ii) maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community (iii) enhancing cultural heritage and (iv) reducing negative impacts to environment.

Addressing the first theme ‘effective sustainability planning’, there is no such planning for tourism industry yet in Bangladesh. Various discrete initiatives have been taken by various authorities to promote sustainable tourism development in Bangladesh however, still it is far away to prepare such a sustainable plan for tourism industry.

The second theme is ‘maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community’ which is treated as a very crucial perspective of sustainable tourism. Though we used to coin the term ecotourism/responsible tourism/environment-friendly tourism for promotional reason but there are very few examples in Bangladesh which exclusively generate social and economic benefits for the local communities. The main reason of not addressing this theme due to not addressing the first theme i.e., absence of ‘effective sustainability planning’ for tourism.

The third theme is ‘enhancing cultural heritage’. Bangladesh is rich in cultural heritage therefore, there are lot of potentials of enhancing the cultural heritage which are treated as important tourism resource. Currently, Bangladesh Tourism Board and Ministry of Cultural Affairs are trying to explore and promote the cultural heritage of Bangladesh using various print and electronic media. However, still there is lack of using these unique resources for tourism development.

Finally, theme ‘reducing negative impacts to environment’ is far to reach. Generally, the people of Bangladesh are lack of environmental awareness and education which cause rampant environmental pollution in tourist destinations are turning these destinations into vulnerable site for both hosts and guests as well as the nature of the site. Except some few site-based examples we need to work hard to achieve this theme to advance our journey towards sustainable tourism.

We have immense opportunity to develop and promote tourism in Bangladesh for her geographical location, friendly and hospitable people, natural and cultural heritage, beautiful landscapes with land, water, and mountains. If we can apply the framework of sustainable tourism to develop tourism industry of our country following the above-mentioned four themes then it is expected to build a positive image of Bangladesh tourism destinations to the tourists of home and abroad which will ultimately facilitate to improve the socio-cultural, economic, and environmental condition of these tourist destinations.

As mentioned earlier, a sustainable tourism plan is essential (has even increased its demands due to current Covid-19 pandemic) for Bangladesh to properly guide each of the tourism stakeholders with effective implementation, monitoring and evaluation to continue. A strong and committed workforce in tourism sector is warranted. Currently, there are a good number of universities and training institutes in Bangladesh where hospitality and tourism management related education and training are offered. Now, we need an integrated effort to use this potential workforce to implement the proposed sustainable tourism plan. The concerned ministries for tourism development and promotion should take integrated and practical actions to tie-up all the concerned national public, private, and international stakeholders in this endeavor.

(Dr. Md. Wasiul Islam, Professor, Forestry and Wood Technology Discipline, Khulna University, Khulna-9208, e-mail: [email protected])

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