“Worldwide trend of mass tourism started with the inception of the airline industry,” said Mofizur Rahman, managing director of Novoair, one of the three private carriers in the country.
He gave the example of the Saidpur Airport in Nilphamari that was set up in 1979. The airport was the stepping stone for industrialisation in Nilphamari, which is now one of the most developed industrial areas in Bangladesh.
Nilphamari is home to the Uttara Export Processing Zone, one of the eight government-run industrial parks. Set up in 2001, the EPZ has 180 industrial plots and is located 16 kilometres off the Saiddpur Airport.
“The town is now one of the key communications hubs for the adjoining districts in the northern part of Bangladesh just for the airport.”
Rahman’s comment came at a seminar styled ‘air connectivity to enhance tourism’ organised by the airline at the Praasad Paradise hotel in Cox’s Bazar.
He demanded the government take initiatives to build an airport in an adjacent district of the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world.
“Despite having huge potential, tourism hasn’t developed in the area due to a lack of proper transport system.”
The number of tourists remains relatively low due to the difficulty in access and arranging transport and a lack of facilities, including suitable accommodation, according to the Unesco’s World Heritage Centre.
Rahman also pointed out the need for proper measures to protect the environment and ecology before developing tourism.
“Cox’s Bazar was a pristine sea beach and far more beautiful 30 years ago, when tourism hadn’t developed much like it is today,” Rahman said.
The tourism is flourishing in the town in an unplanned manner, making it an unattractive destination, he added.
The critical biodiversity of the beach town, a major tourist attraction, faces grave risk due to high level of human interventions following the Rohingya influx from Myanmar.
Already, more than 2,000 hectares of forest have been lost as a result of the expansion of campsites after the arrival of more than 750,000 Rohingyas since August 2017.
Before the latest influx, more than 300,000 Rohingyas were already living in the area, according to two recent studies.
Environmentalists say that the city would face more acute environmental hazards in the near future as the government initiated a project to set up an industrial zone there by cutting forests and even reserve forests, which have been serving as a shield against sea storms in Cox’s Bazar since time immemorial.
“The domestic tourism sector has been booming in Bangladesh for the past decade. If proper transportation and accommodation are provided, the sector will develop further,” said Rahman, who previously served in the Bangladesh Air Force.
Bangladesh does not get significant number of foreign tourists, while the exact number of domestic tourists is unavailable.
According to tour operators, the exact number of domestic tourists was about 80 lakh to 90 lakh in 2019.
The country’s other major tourist destinations are Dinajpur, Bogura, Sylhet, Cumilla, Bagerhat, Kuakata and St Martin’s Island.
Rahman also touched upon the challenges facing the airline industry. “Achieving carbon neutrality is now a major challenge,” Rahman added.
Carbon neutrality refers to achieving net zero carbon dioxide emissions by balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal or simply eliminating carbon emissions.
The United Nations aviation body forecasts that airplane emissions of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, will reach just over 900 million tonnes in 2018, and then triple by 2050, the New York Times reported in September last year.
Mes-bah-ul-Islam, head of marketing and sales of Novoair, also spoke.