Bangladesh's tourism sector has grown with the pace of the country's economic growth in the past decade, as more and more people are having sizeable disposable income.In the past decade, the economy grew at an average of 6.5 percent; and in the last three years it clocked in more than 7 percent growth.
At the end of last fiscal year, the per capita income stood at $1,751, in contrast to $703 nine years earlier.
Though Bangladesh does not get a big number of foreign tourists, it has millions of domestic tourists who go for vacations often.
According to different tour operators, the number of domestic tourists rose to 70 lakh in 2017 from 60 lakh a year earlier.
And, December is the second busiest month after July for tourism in Bangladesh, as the schools break up for winter vacations then.
“We have no room to rent until December 25,” said Iqbal Mohsin, general manager of Hotel Sea Crown, located on the beachfront at Cox’s Bazar.
The hotel has 90 rooms and the prices range from Tk 4,000 to Tk 7,500 a room.
Winter is the peak season for tourism in Rangamati’s Sajek, which has a strong appeal to tourists for its pristine natural beauty and indigenous population, said Suparna Debbarman, president of Cottage Malik Samity of Sajek, a forum of owners.
“Now a tourist must book in advance for a room in Sajek.”
Sajek has 90 resorts and cottages that can accommodate only 2,000 persons daily.
The middle- and higher middle-class now love to spend money for recreation and leisure purposes, said Santus Kumar Deb, assistance professor of the department of tourism and hospitality management of the University of Dhaka.
Referring to his research findings, he said the middle-class spend Tk 15,000 to Tk 20,000 per year, while the higher middle-class spend more than Tk 80,000 a year for tourism.
Many Bangladeshis go abroad for recreation due to lack of facilities in the country.
About 20 lakh people visited India last year and 7 lakh Thailand, he said, adding that several lakh Bangladeshis go to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia a year for tourism.
However, an official of the Indian embassy in Dhaka said they issued 14 lakh visas in 2017. But the number of tourists may be higher as they get visas for one year with multiple entries.
MGR Nasir Majumder, a director of the Travel Operators Association of Bangladesh, said domestic tourism has been increasing in Bangladesh riding on young visitors as they have high interest in exploring new areas and also the time.
The market size of domestic tourism reached Tk 5,000 crore in 2017 while it was not more than Tk 500 crore 10 years earlier, said Majumder, also the managing director of Century Travels Services.
About 70 percent of tourists prefer visiting Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong Hill Tracts, followed by Sundarban and Sylhet.
Tour operators generated about 25,000 jobs directly across the country; about 500 operators provide services including hotel and transport booking, guide etc, he added.
“Domestic tourism is booming, but there is no hard data on it,” said Aktar Ahmed, deputy director (marketing and public relations) of Bangladesh Tourism Board, a state-owned agency.
The tourism board recorded 778,143 inbound tourists last year and the country made revenue of $97.05 million from foreign tourists.