Tourism – an Indo-Bangladesh perspective

Comments Off on Tourism – an Indo-Bangladesh perspective 426

SMITA MISHRA

The recent discussion on tourism at the NADI festival organised by the Asian Confluence in Shillong (15-16th July) brought together tour operators from Eastern & Northeastern India and Bangladesh. The presence of several northeastern chief ministers and the Bangladesh tourism minister Rashed Khan Menon provided a great platform for tour operators to showcase new ideas.

Somapura Mahavihara in Paharpur is one of the most important archeological sites in Indian Subcontinent

Somapura Mahavihara in Paharpur is one of the most important archeological sites in the Indian Subcontinent

Bangladeshis now constitute the second largest segment of tourists visiting India. They come in all categories — shoppers, medical tourists, educational tourists, business tourists (who take a vacation when in India for work or business) and those who go around India on a vacation. Indians constitute the largest segment of outside visitors to Bangladesh — the thin line between tourism and business exists and often they mix.

Since both India and Bangladesh are developing economies and have been growing fast, it is important for both countries to realise the potential of tourism not only in boosting economy but also in generating employment which is crucial to handling the demographic dividend —  a restive young population which can be pioneers but not handled properly can be pioneers of discontent.

For Northeast which has its long history of problems created by a restive youth, tourism rather than manufacturing provides the one-stop solution for optimising economic growth, acceptable levels of employment and for boosting other industries like handicrafts, food processing and hotel industry.

I envisage a 20 day cruise through Ganga-Padma and Meghna-Brahmaputra basin that begins from Murshidabad, the capital of Nawabi pre-British Bengal, to Dibrugarh at the heart of the tea country in Upper Assam, not far from the borders of Myanmar and China

So an effort needs to be made to (a) ensure a higher flow of Bangladesh tourists to Northeast India because they are the second largest segment of tourists visiting India now (b) to ensure a higher flow of NE tourists into Bangladesh (c) to creating jointly a mutually viable bouquet of tourism packages for people of Northeast and Bangladesh (d) to create by using common resources like rivers flowing through both countries  high value tourism packages — like a trans-regional river cruise beginning at Murshidabad on the Ganges, then through Padma and finally into Jamuna and up to Brahmaputra ending at Dibrugarh in upper Assam (give an old world zamindar feel by using big bajras (e) using NE sanctuaries like Kaziranga for rhino safaris for Bangladesh tourists and seaside packages at Cox’s Bazar for NE tourists for whom the sea is far off (f) to push both governments for creating a necessary infrastructure for boosting the tourism industry

P1000448

Smita Mishra with Bangladesh tourism minister Rashed Khan Menon and High Commissioner to India Syed Moazzem Ali

We also need to address in this session how we handle the problems of mutual perceptions (at the popular level — image of Bangladeshi as infiltrator in Northeast and the image of a Northeasterner as a dangerous terrorist in Bangladesh) and also difficulties of actual business cooperation between companies on either side (banking etc).

The trans-regional river cruise that I have proposed is a game changer for India-Bangladesh tourism. Not only will it help tour operators of both countries to use its common rivers for boosting tourism and community incomes but it will become an icon of improving bilateral relations. Unlike ocean cruises, which is only about fun and frolic on board of giant liners, river cruise will be about touching populated cities and villages, heritage sites and areas with great landscapes. It is about history and culture as much as it is about natural beauty and local food. I envisage a 20 day cruise through Ganga-Padma and Meghna-Brahmaputra basin that begins from Murshidabad, the capital of Nawabi pre-British Bengal, to Dibrugarh at the heart of the tea country in Upper Assam, not far from the borders of Myanmar and China. What we need is huge boats that can be shaped like the old ‘Bajras’ of the zamindars and equip them with modern amenities, just to give them a feel of both the ancient and the modern. This cruise will bring the two countries closer.

Similar articles