FOREST-BASED TOURISM IN BANGLADESH: STATUS, PROBLEMS, AND PROSPECTS Mahbubul Alam Ehime University
Yasushi Furukawa Kochi University Salma Akter Kochi University
Bangladesh is a land of diverse forest-based natural attractions throughout the evergreen, semi-evergreen, and mangrove forest ecosystems. The article attempts at exploring various dimensions of ecotourism industry and critically analyzes the relationship among the stakeholders, overall strength-weakness of ecotourism sector and impediments hindering its development. National Parks, Ecoparks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, Game Reserves, and the like have been developed in the natural forest ecosystems to attract tourists from home and abroad. Cheap transportation, lodging and associated costs, unique scenic beauty and wilderness of all sites and socio-cultural diversity of indigenous communities living in the forest together make up the strength of the industry as a whole. The study identifies a number of impediments, including conflict among the stakeholders and forest degradation hindering expansion of ecotourism industry. For sustainable development of forest-based tourism, traditional ‘Top-down’ management approach is suggested to avoid and voice of all stakeholders needs to be considered in decision-making. Keywords: ecotourism, policy, stakeholder, SWOT analysis
INTRODUCTION Forest-based tourism, popularly known as ‘ecotourism’ that blends ‘ecology’ and ‘tourism’, is defined as environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples (The Nature Conservancy, © University of the Aegean. Printed in Greece. Some rights reserved. ISSN: 1790-8418
Mahbubul Alam, Yasushi Furukawa & Salma Akter
2009). Forest-based tourism is regarded as an effective tool for sustainable conservation of forest resources and its biodiversity. It plays both conservation and revenue earning roles. Conservation roles are played in two ways: by keeping intact, and somewhere by improving, the existing forest resources to attract the tourists and secondly by involving the poor forest dwellers, who were removing trees and other non-timber products for their livelihood, in different income generating activities within the ecotourism area. Bangladesh, a country of south Asia lies between 20°34' and 26°38' north latitude and 88°01' and 92°41' east longitude. It shares boundary on the west and north side with India, on the south-east with Myanmar, and on the south with Bay of Bengal. The country enjoys a sub-tropical monsoon climate characterized by rain-bearing winds, moderately warm temperatures, and high humidity. While there are six seasons in a year, three namely, winter, summer, and monsoon are prominent. Winter that is quite pleasant begins in November and ends on February. Monsoon starts in July and stays upto October. This period accounts for 80% of the total annual rainfall (BBS, 2003). The annual temperature averages between 7°C to 36°C. April is normally the warmest and January is the coolest month. Tourism in Bangladesh is not a fully flourished, rather a developing industry. In recent times, with the gradual development of infrastructure facilities and increasing exposition, Bangladesh is fast emerging as a tempting tourist spot. This article is aimed at critically exploring various issues of forest-based tourism industry of the country, analyzing its problems and future priorities. The following section of the article describes potentials and attractions of popular tourist spots in different forest areas and the succeeding sections critically analyze, among others, contribution and interrelationships of the stakeholders and...