Bangladesh is rarely considered a tourist destination. As sad as it is to accept this, it is a fact that should not be overlooked.
But it is also difficult to accept that a country with such a rich cultural heritage as ours is lagging behind in its tourism sector. Our pride in having the longest sea beach remains limited to this. ‘Beautiful Bangladesh’, as we call it, is a term whose potential we have never explored.
While international travel enthusiasts go on a world tour, Bangladesh never makes it to their itinerary.
I happen to have many foreign friends who casually travel around the world for their “vlogging”. As an international student living in the UK, all I do is raise the curiosity of my foreign peers, but with one thought ever in my mind: if they ever visit my country, will they be impressed?
There has been an influx of foreigners traveling to the Indian subcontinent over the past decade. Nowadays, traveling is seen as an investment that opens up endless possibilities. Backpackers and occasional globetrotters are exploring a new activity that has also become their source of income.
With the advent of YouTube, travelers can share their travel experiences with the world. Video blogs or “vlogging” have become a trend. Old diaries have been replaced by travel videos. With a DSLR or even a smartphone, anyone can record their memories anywhere in the world and upload them to YouTube.
Travel videos not only depict individual experiences, but provide a detailed and raw insight into the particular place being shown. It can either increase the value or tarnish the image of a place. Nevertheless, it is slowly becoming a key player in boosting tourism industries around the world.
Travel vloggers roam scenic cities and landscapes capturing their beauty on their devices. And with a simple video edit, these turn into mini movies that tell a story. They are always on the lookout for something unique that would draw more attention to their videos. Every travel video found on YouTube has something interesting that one tries to present. This in turn generates good revenue for the creators.
Overall, it’s a win-win situation, both for the creator and for where the video is. If the creator is already popular and has millions of subscribers, the locations it displays will gain popularity accordingly. As surprising as it may seem, a simple video can contribute to a country’s economy if shown positively.
Solo travelers look for certain things when deciding to travel to a country. The two main ones are security and accessibility. They make sure that wherever they travel they have a local guide and suitable transportation to get around. For safety, it is preferable that they are in no way disturbed.
Unfortunately, a foreign tourist attracts more attention in Bangladesh than a fight in the street. Each time, we take out our phone and take pictures. The least we can do is make them feel comfortable as they walk around. But our curiosity to try to communicate with them never stops.
It’s not a bad thing as long as we don’t invade their space. We are also among the most hospitable people in the world. This is what international food vlogger Trevor James enjoyed the most when he visited Dhaka with his Food Ranger team last year.
Our hospitality is our asset and we must use it to make them feel at home.
Accessibility is best served when transportation is efficient. As backpackers plan their trips within limited time and budget, they prefer the fastest mode of transportation.
This is where the need for adequate airports across the country comes into play. At present, there are five domestic airports and three international airports in Bangladesh. But how many are there in tourist areas? Many of these airports are in large divisions far from these locations.
Although Cox’s Bazar has an airport, it is for domestic use only. If international flights are allowed there, it will make a huge difference. More international tourists would have the comfort of coming to the beach town without hassle. The closer an airport is to the tourist attraction, the better the accessibility it can offer.
It would be unfair to say that no travel vlogger has visited Bangladesh. Despite some limitations, a significant number of travel vloggers have arrived in Bangladesh since last year. Renowned vloggers like Drew Binsky, Indigo Traveller, TheLifeofJord, Backpacking Simon, Kara and Nate and Jason Billam have traveled to Bangladesh and made videos. The videos were a mix of positive and negative, each describing their own experiences in this country.
Sonny Side’s most recent video from the “Best Ever Food Review Show” showed him trying street foods from Dhaka and Chottogram. His three-episode video series on Bangladeshi cuisine has reached almost two million views each on Youtube. Many other well-known creators such as Khaled Al Ameri and Mark Wiens have also traveled to Bangladesh and created interesting content on our food and tourism spots.
This is hopefully the start of a new flow of foreigners coming to Bangladesh for travel purposes.
There was a time when the only reason a foreigner (read Western) would come to Bangladesh was to be assigned to work by an NGO or the UN. But this is gradually changing as we are voluntarily chosen as a travel destination.
What they experience here is what the world would get an impression of. Therefore, we must treat them as we treat a guest at our house. They are our guests and we must equip ourselves to welcome them and help create memories they will cherish forever.
Aiman R Khan is an accredited lawyer and mediator.