Tourism comprises an important component of developing Blue Economy. Sea-based tourism - both offshore and on-shore - are always much popular tourism activities in the world. Tourists love to visit the beautiful landscape and seascape beauties for their lifetime experiences. Maldives, the Netherlands and the Caribbean islands are most glaring examples for much-chosen tourist destination because of sea-based tourism activities. Tourism is such an industry that can make ripple effect sustainably from higher level to rural communities. The poor coastal people can reap much benefit out of the coastal and blue tourism development.
The SDG-14 describes, "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development." To achieve this goal, the target no 14.7 says, "By 2030 increase the economic benefits of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developing Countries (LCDs) from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism." In line with this, we can link development of coastal and marine tourism, which are the biggest segment of tourism industry particularly for Small Island Developing States. Tourism development must be a part of integrated coastal zone management for conserving and preserving fragile ecosystem and serve as a vehicle to promote the blue economy. We are lucky that Bangladesh Government has already developed a policy on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZMP). This policy emphasised for coastal biodiversity and marine resources conservation. The Water Resource Planning Organisation (WARPO), Bangladesh Haor and Water Body Development Authority are working for policy implementation.
Coastal and marine tourism represent a significant share of the industry and is an important component of the growing sustainable Blue Economy, supporting more than 6.5 million jobs - second only to industrial fishing. With anticipated global growth rates of more than 3.5%, coastal and marine tourism is projected to be largest value-adding segment of the ocean economy by 2030, at 26%. (Rob Burumbaugh, World Bank).
The Bay of Bengal is an important sea because of its strategic location and full of marine resources. It is the largest among the 64 Bays of the world. Around 30 million people of Bangladesh are directly involved in fishing in the Bay and other oceanographic activities. Therefore, tourism can be an engine for the growth of blue economy in Bangladesh. There are many departments involved in the Blue Economy activities but tourism should be included in the priority list. The experiences of other countries for developing blue tourism may be applied here.
Fishermen and coastal people specially the youth are to be trained up with surfing, angling, diving and snorkeling. The local youth can be provided eco-tour guide training and local women with local food production in hygienic manner.
A few offshore islands located in the Bay of Bengal may be developed for sustainable eco-tourism involving the local community. Why Maldives is much-expected destination? It is simply because drifting island in the ocean that are remote, unspoiled and panoramic seascapes, where tourists can come very close to nature. Tourists are always delighted to pay for luxury room with an ocean view. The mind and body can be healed by passing time in the resorts drifting amidst the sea. The healthy environment can provide a sustainable tourism development. The blue tourism is also synonymous with a healthy tourism.
The artificial floating island may be created amidst the Bay of Bengal say for 50 km away from the coast. Here, the environmentalists and tourism developers may sit setting aside their rigidness.
Two types of ocean cruises may be developed. One is cross-country/multi-country ocean cruise and other is intra-country ocean cruise. We must focus on the cross-country ocean cruise like India-Bangladesh-Thailand-Singapore. It will earn more than intra-country ocean-cruises.
Snorkeling, para gliding, diving activities as well as yacht, hover craft, marine aquarium boatel should be introduced. A sea sanitarium in the Bay of Bengal can be one of the most lucrative tourist attractions for the elderly people. Apart from these, night cruise along with floating bar and disco exclusive for the foreigners may be arranged. Though establishment of a marine aquarium is an expensive progarmme, it would be the most quick-return tourism activities in Cox's Bazar. BPC may be given the responsibility with appropriate budget. An integrated blue-tourism development policy may be framed. Bangladesh government has already integrated coastal zone management plan, it may be reviewed while framing blue-tourism development.
Tourists love to stay in an ocean view full-window room because, it gives tourist much satisfaction for their soul and body. We know the resorts along the Mediterranean sea and Pacific Ocean are most frequently visited and high-spending destinations.
The mangrove-base tourism development activities are also important issues for blue economy development. The Sundarbans eco-tourism development plan may be reviewed and the plan should be extended to the whole Bay of Bengal. The Swatch of No-ground (SONG) can be a tourism hotspot because of its having Irrawaddy Dolphin and Whale.
The Chittagong sea-port and Mongla port authorities of Bangladesh can help a lot to develop inter and intra-country ocean-cruises. There should be a coordinating cell headed by Chairman, BPC for promoting and developing ocean cruising in the Bay of Bengal. The efficient manpower for conducting ocean-cruise is very essential. The BPC-run NHTTI may supply those manpower.
We should not waste our time any more. It is high time for Bangladesh to concentrate on developing blue-tourism. The funding for developing blue-tourism is an important issue for Bangladesh. The non-resident Bangladeshis (NRB) can be invited to contribute in this sector. In addition, the multinational companies that produce yacht, hovercraft and ocean-going vessels may be invited to explore these untapped resources.
Md Ziaul Haque Howlader
*Published in the Daily Sun on December 08, 2018. Republished in the Travelogue with the writer's kind consent.