Formerly East Pakistan, Bangladesh is a relatively young nation that was founded in 1971. Bangladesh is one of the world’s most densely populated countries – with its people nestled in a network of river deltas that meet the Bay of Bengal. As of 2014, the population in Bangladesh was 158.5 million people – 2.2% of the worlds population.

The history of Bangladesh is intertwined with India and Pakistan. Due to the fact that the majority of Bangladesh’s landmass is a river delta formed by the Padma (Ganges river) and the Jamuna (Brahmaputra river) – it long proved an inaccessible frontier beyond the north Indian plains – this isolation moulded a distinctive regional culture.

From the 3rd century through to the 18th century the region known as Bengal experienced a variety of leaders and religions; ranging from Buddhism, to Hindu, to Islam. The British colonial rule in the region lasted around 2 centuries and in 1947, when British colonial rule ended, a downsized province of Bengal was divided into East Bengal and West Bengal. East Bengal was renamed East Pakistan in 1955, and in 1971 it became Bangladesh. Bangladesh spent 15 years under military rule, until democracy was restored in 1990. However, the political scene remains volatile – political tensions often spill over into violence, resulting in hundreds of people dying in recent years.

Today poverty remains a major issue in Bangladesh, though in recent years population growth has slowed and a greater emphasis has been placed on improving health and education. Bangladesh is classified as one of the “Next Eleven” tier of developing countries – with strong potential for economic growth and foreign-investment.

The major employer in Bangladesh is still agriculture, although the country is attempting to increase industrial development. Overseas investment has focused on the manufacturing & energy sectors. The domestic manufacturing sector received global attention when the collapse of a garment factory in 2013 ended in the death of 1,000 workers. This catastrophe brought workers out in protest to demand better working conditions from Westernised brands.

Bangladesh shares a border with India and Myanmar, the southern and eastern coastline opens into the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh is a low lying nation and experiences an extremely wet monsoon season during the summer months, making it vulnerable to flooding and cyclones. The impacts of climate change and rising sea levels stands to badly affect the region. A small section in the northwest of Bangladesh is mountainous and covered in dense jungle.

For the various challenges that face Bangladesh – there are also various positives for this Asian nation to focus upon. There is no doubt that the tourism industry will continue to develop, evident on a Bangladesh tourism slogan: ‘Come before the tourists visit’. Investment in infrastructure has continued to increase and visitor numbers led by India, Australia and China prove that Bangladesh is increasingly becoming a realistic international tourism destination.

In 2013, 148,000 international visitors were welcomed to Bangladesh, up from 125,000 international tourists in 2012. Check out Cox’s beach hosting the world’s longest natural coastal beach stretching for 125km (make sure to head south to skip the concrete paradise of hotels and construction sites!). Also consider a trek up in the Bandarban, or a boat tour through the Sundarbans – the massive delta with the largest mangrove forest in the world.







Ethical Travel Issues and advice

Displacement of Local Peoples:

Tourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or people who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.

Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and so called ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events. Furthermore, climate displacement is becoming a greater risk in Bangladesh due to climate change.

To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Land displacement:

Ethical Photography:

Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.

Taking photos of friendly local people can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.

To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography:


Ceremonial celebrations:

The Kali Puja is an annual festival observed by Hindus, mostly living in West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh. The Puja is a prayer on a holy occasion (like Christmas or Eid). The Hindu religion is not linked to eating turtles but somehow it has become a tradition among Hindus and almost every Hindu wants to eat turtles on this particular day as it is considered an auspicious or ‘holy’ day, in much the same way that turkeys are eaten on Christmas. Several hundred thousand turtles are slaughtered every year all during Kali Puja.

All the turtles are captured from the wild. Collection of turtles is carried out all over Bangladesh and the traders have a very strong multi-tier network and mobile phones have made their work much more ‘productive’. The Bangladesh Wildlife Preservation Act 1974 prohibits capturing killing of some species listed in its Schedules. However the Act has been revised as The Bangladesh Wildlife Act 2011 and is now awaiting approval of the parliament. The revised act protects all wildlife.

There is no quota as to how many turtles may be captured/killed. No capture or killing is permitted under the Act/law but due to weak implementation and enforcement such illegal trade continues.

Diving & Snorkelling:

Several endangered species of turtles nest on the St Martin’s island and many marine fish species dwells in the surrounding water. The fish population includes some newly discovered species as well. Saint Martin’s island is abundant in corals and some is exclusive to the island itself. The surrounding coral reef of the island has an extension named Chera Dweep. Tourists often travel to this island to go for a scuba dive or snorkelling in the Bay of Bengal.

Water Equity:

Carrying water in Koira, Sathkhira, Bangladesh.

Tourists use more water than the ordinary consumer. Indeed, the water ‘footprint’ of the Western world, as in our carbon footprint, is very high. There are already serious water shortages worldwide and a prediction of ‘water wars’.

The United Nations has claimed that ‘The average tourist uses as much water in 24 hours as a third world villager would use to produce rice for 100 days.’ Tourists need unlimited supplies of water – they are used to it at home and desire copious amounts on holiday: for drinking, baths and showers, swimming pools, overflowing fountains and green manicured lawns.

But water, in developing countries, is often a precious commodity. More than 2 billion people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and 80 per cent of all deaths in the developing world are water related. Put a hotel near a local community and the pressure on the water supply is acute.

Tourism Concern has extensively campaigned on water equity and have published reports & articles on the topic. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles: