Human Rights Advocacy
Protecting tourist rights
Mohammad Shahidul Islam
Since tourism bears the identity of a nation's culture and heritage, it can be easily potential to innovate a brand image for Bangladesh. Except only desert, we are equipped with all natural characteristics and resources that are really rare in this age of deforestation and global warming across the world. Already Bangladesh has been competent to draw attention of thousands of foreign tourists for its unbroken longest sea beach Cox's Bazar, coral island Saint Martin and world heritage sites Paharpur and Sundarbans. Its daughter of nature Rangamati, law hill station Bandarban and green Sylhet also experience significant tourists' arrival yearly. In this backdrop, this is also true, we are not yet prepared well to receive and entertain self-motivated western and eastern tourists. We have to admit that we have many a lacking in national infrastructure and superstructure.
But, for tourist behaviour and protection of tourist rights, we need not go for big plans. Tourist rights in Bangladesh are not formally protected. Observation shows, habitually tourists leave Bangladesh with some dissatisfaction. They become swindled, misbehaved and served with no extra care. To whom the blame should go is truly baffling. If we personally become a bit careful to take care of tourists, our commitment to lift the image of Bangladesh will be greatly defended. At the same time, some national measures to protect tourist rights will be also effective to bring smile on a huge number of tourists for generating revenue.
In Cox's Bazar, the behaviour of local stakeholders even to domestic tourists are frequently found frustrating. They swell their dominance across the beach. They are aggressive instead of smiling and welcoming to the tourists. In many ways they harass the tourists. They stipulate impossible price for any enjoyment or entertainment or facility. Say, a low earning new couple feels fascinated to have a photograph against the sunset by the beach mobile photographer. But the price is beyond their means. If they go for availing the photography facility, perchance they would not be able to come back home with the rest of money of their budget. As tourists, the couple have been deprived of their rights of enjoyment only because of foul and irrational price. This is just an example. There are many complaints from tourists on beach markets, local transportations, hotels and restaurants.
Dhaka city is not also away from such complaints and deceptions. Most of the tourists halt in Dhaka. They are either foreigners or expatriates. Their centre point happens to be Dhaka mainly because they land at Zia International Airport. They get Dhaka as lounge from where they make their itinerary to visit other tourist's attractions across Bangladesh. They sojourn, shop and eat in Dhaka. The increasing number of complaints from them about local shops is categorically alarming for the proper growth of tourism and the country's image. The foreign tourists can be simply identified by their skin and language. The so-called taxi drivers, salesmen, non-branded hotel and restaurant staff always target to poach their dollars. The tourists feel often nervous. Taxi drivers or salesmen hike price on seeing the white or black skin. The non-branded hotel and restaurant staff insist for bizarre tips. These are smacking of the prospect of hospitality industry in Bangladesh.
Cant and negligence to tourists by guides or custodians of museums, historical sites and monuments are also violation of tourist rights. Their whimsical and hypothetical analysis, not to pay much attention to tourist's interest, taking time to find out keys to open the door and to have tips for allowing tourist's entrance etc hamper the tourist's relaxed stamina for discovery.
The above scenario, however, are very common of tourism industry in under developed countries. But recently it knocks seriously on World Tourism Organisation that is all the time sincere to speak in favour of tourist rights since it believes in “Tourism enriches”. Now most countries' tourism boards and councils are becoming more alert to protect tourist rights. Among our SAARC countries, Maldives has already initiated the scheme for protecting tourist rights. In the Midland city of Hong Kong, the price hiking for tourists has seriously been observed. The authority there has taken sweeping action against all mismanagement risky for tourist rights.
Bangladesh is also taking new steps in restoring its image in many respects. We have also good plan for tourism development. Measures for protecting tourist rights will definitely encourage a large number of tourists to visit Bangladesh. The country is really cheaper than other SAARC countries for tourism. For instance, Bhutan is so costly in tourism compared to Bangladesh. But they get thousands of western tourists yearly. They protect tourist rights through their culture and behaviour.
Though foreign tourists are not citizens and logically they would not be entitled to many facilities what a citizen can easily enjoy but the picture is different in some African countries. They respect tourists like their own citizens. They have national tourist code of conduct. They value tourist rights sincerely.
The following hints may be helpful to protect tourist rights in Bangladesh:
- Agreeable definitions of foreign tourist and domestic tourist by the authority concerned
- The authority concerned of tourism may inculcate exact behaviour for tourists
- To ensure tourist satisfaction, extra services have to be available at tourist locations
- Enactment of tourist rights protection laws through a national council
- The district head should be assigned to monitor the local behaviour to tourists
- Inspection teams approved by the proper authority may often meet the tourists to ensure their satisfaction. If they find any anomaly, they will go for action against the shop or person or transport etc.
- Tourist rights protection would start from airport
- Websites for tourist facilities and shopping with approximate prices, rents and bargaining techniques should be updated
- Tourist markets would be monitored by the local law enforcement and administration agencies
- Public awareness should be kicked off through newspaper, television, brochures and posters
- Training, workshop and seminar on tourism and tourist rights for stakeholders
Pleasure does not last long when mind becomes disturbed. Tourism gives tourist the promise of pleasure and mental relief from chaotic life. Pleasure and mental satisfaction are important for tourists. The host country should ensure tourist service without creating any tension for tourists of being deceived in the course of irrational price, misguiding, misbehaviour, and underestimation of strangers, which are observed as threats to tourist rights. For sustainable tourism development and to keep positive image of Bangladesh growing, there is no alternative to protecting tourist rights now.
The author is Training Officer, National Tourism Organisation.