Domestic travellers have revived Bangladesh’s tourism industry

Jun 06, 2019

WHEN HE SET up Shanti Bari, an ecoresort in the forest near Srimangal, a town in a hilly, tea-growing region of Bangladesh, Tanvir Arefin Lincoln’s guests were mainly foreign tourists. Locals laughed at the idea of staying somewhere with so few modern conveniences. They asked, “Where is the TV? Where is the AC? What are we paying for?” Mr Lincoln replied: “You’re paying for fireflies, for the Moon and the stars. You’re paying for a luxurious environment, not a luxurious room.”

That was five years ago. Now, most of his guests are Bangladeshi. In 2000 just 300,000 Bangladeshis went on holiday within their country; in 2017, 7m did. The figures for last year and this are likely to be higher still, says Bhubon Biswas, head of the Bangladesh Tourism Board: “Business is booming.”

Foreign tourism has oscillated wildly in recent years because of political violence and terrorism, including an especially grisly attack in 2016 that targeted expatriates in Dhaka, the capital. But even as foreigners have been scared off, locals have been taking their place. Incomes have increased three- or fourfold during the past ten years, says Syed Rashidul Hasan of Dhaka University. At first, families tend to spend the extra money on appliances and other consumer goods, he explains, but as their incomes continue to grow, they begin to splash out...

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