Travel and Tourism Boost for Bangladesh
Good news for backpackers heading to Bangladesh in the coming months: their holidays at the country’s beaches and mountains have just become more exciting.
It is because Finance Minister AMA Muhith, in his budget speech for fiscal 2013-14, proposed slashing down the import duty by 80 percent of the various paraphernalia used for recreational adventure sports like scuba diving, paragliding and kite surfing.
“We have the scope to offer scuba diving in our beach towns but it does not take place because of the absence of equipment,” said M Wahid Ullah, managing director of Silver Wave Tours Ltd, which facilitates inbound tourism.
The duty slash, he says, will set off an investment boom in this sub-sector of tourism.
“Investors have so far been shy of investment due to the high costs. Now, more equipment will arrive, enabling tourists to have a more action-filled holiday in Bangladesh.”
The duty cut from 25 percent to 5 percent applies on: swimming accessories, camping and hiking tents, safety cap for skating or biking, mountain climbing materials, go-kart, hot air balloons, surfing boats, kayak, sea ray and its accessories, water bikes, jet ski, house boats, bowling items and pool table. Digital cameras, too, will become cheaper.
The incentive comes at a time when the sector is going through a lean patch, due to the ongoing political turmoil.
“Foreign tourist flow has tumbled since December because of the political turbulence,” said Hasan Mansur, president of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh.
He, however, said the cut in duty for accessories is a positive step. “We will be able to provide better services to our guests.”
“It will also encourage investments in the sector,” he said, adding that infrastructures, however, have to be developed to attract a higher tourist foot count.
“Above all, an ambient atmosphere is necessary for the development of the industry,” he said.
Over the years, tourism has expanded on the back of a burgeoning middle-class, who frequently visit tourist spots at home and abroad. Investment, too, has increased.
The travel and tourism sector accounted for 2.1 percent of GDP, according to World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2013 report.
The sector directly contributed Tk 193 billion in 2012, up from previous year’s Tk 182.5 billion, said WTTC.
Muhith said a book expounding on the various tourist sites around the country is on the way. “Plus, the cabinet has approved the ‘Cox’s Bazar Development Authority Act’,” he said.
The government has also drafted rules to establish four different development authorities at Kuakata, Barisal, Sylhet and Rangpur, the nation’s other tourist spots.
“We have primarily identified several projects to be implemented under public-private partnership to develop the infrastructure for the tourism industry.”
A couple of such programmes is due to be implemented at Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf, Muhith said, adding that the process for establishing specialised police units like tourist police and marine police is almost completed.