As Bangladesh prepares to celebrate World Tourism Day 2023 on 27 September, our observations and activities must align with this year's theme, "Tourism and Green Investment." This topic has a solid connection to the goal of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to create a tourism industry that is more sustainable and resilient, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversation on environmentally responsible investments is timely and essential for nations like Bangladesh attempting to simultaneously meet the dual challenges of economic recovery and environmental conservation. It analyzes the potential for Bangladesh to establish a sustainable tourism industry by utilizing environmentally friendly investments.
According to the World Economic Forum's Global Risk Report 2023, the impending threat of climate change is one of the most significant issues for the following ten years. The tourism industry in Bangladesh is not an exception due to the country's extensive natural landscapes and biologically diverse ecosystems. These ecosystems include the Sundarbans and the beautiful beaches of Cox's Bazar. These natural resources, located in areas popular with tourists, are also vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Investments in sustainable practices within the tourism industry have the potential to bring about radical change. Consider eco-friendly resorts that use renewable energy, sustainable waste management systems, and materials sourced locally and in an environmentally responsible manner. According to the International Finance Cooperation, investment opportunities in the green buildings industry of emerging economies are projected to be $24.7 trillion by the year 2030. Tourism is expected to account for a significant portion of these investment opportunities.
The tourist industry in Bangladesh has the potential to become an instrument for the country's socioeconomic development, particularly for rural communities and populations at a disadvantage, such as women and young people. Women comprise around 54% of the tourism industry workforce worldwide, as the UNWTO reported. This allows Bangladesh to improve gender equality by introducing skill training programs focusing on environmentally responsible tourism practices. By enhancing the workforce's skills, the tourism industry may become more competitive, which in turn ensures that it can serve as an effective instrument for the growth of society.
The pandemic highlighted the vital relevance of technology and innovation in handling crises. Digital technology in the tourism industry can enhance the tourist experience, make resource management more approachable, and help achieve long-term sustainability goals. In the long run, investing in creative start-ups focused on eco-tourism, virtual tourism, and climate-resilient infrastructure would benefit the Bangladeshi economy. In addition, initiatives such as blockchain for environmentally responsible supply chain management or artificial intelligence-driven advancements in energy-saving technologies have the potential to make significant strides in turning the tourism industry into a driver of ecologically accountable growth. The recommendations that follow are directed toward the various stakeholders:
• Draft and enact regulations that offer tax benefits and funding opportunities for environmentally conscious tourism endeavors.
• Include lessons on ecotourism as a required part of the education provided in all schools nationwide.
• Work with educational institutions on a collaborative basis to conduct research and development in the field of sustainable tourism.
• Make it a top priority to invest in environmentally friendly technologies and infrastructure.
• Develop and promote financial instruments like green bonds geared explicitly at the tourism industry, such as creating these bonds.
• Make use of the resources at the individual's disposal, such as funds and platforms, to drive positive change in environmentally responsible tourism enterprises.
As Bangladesh celebrates World Tourism Day and reflects on the significance of tourism to the nation's economy and social fabric, the country must place a priority on developing a path forward that respects the sanctity of our planet, fosters the well-being of its inhabitants, and paves the way for a prosperous new age. Investing in sustainable practices is a fundamental part of our strategy. This is both a call to action for the here and now and a road map for progress in the longer future. Bangladesh may be able to reposition its tourism industry as a driver for global change by the UN Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals if it adopts the concept of green investment and puts it into practice.
Dr. Mohammad Shahidul Islam, Assistant Professor of Marketing, BRAC Business School, BRAC University, E-mail: email@example.com
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