Bangladesh is not a country one associates with international coastal tourism. But things may be about to change.  Located along the same coastline as Myanmar’s Ngapali beach, Cox’s Bazar is a seaside town and one of the most popular local tourist destinations in Bangladesh. It’s 120 kilometer coastline is also one of the longest uninterrupted beaches in the world. The government has plans for a 1165 acre coastal tourism zone and actively seeking investors and developers.

The government is moving ahead with establishing an exclusive tourist zone (ETZ) at Sabrung of Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar having modern facilities to rope in international tourists.

Bangladesh Cox Bazar Coastal Tourism

Economic gains for the investors and providing attractive entertainment for business entrepreneurs from home and abroad through the ETZ, being built under public-private partnership (PPP), are among the key objectives, officials and industry-insiders say.

The dos include upgrading Cox’s Bazar airport to an international one, completing the four-lane marine drive and ensuring electricity supply to the multimillion-dollar project.

He said a high-powered delegation headed by the tourism minister will go to Japan in search of Japanese investors.

Mr Khan observed many foreign investors who have invested in garment and manufacturing sectors are confident about the sectors. But tourism has not yet flourished as organised sector in Bangladesh for which foreign investors are not yet confident to make investment here.

“I hope within next one or two years, the tourism sector will create that confidence among the foreign investors as the government will develop necessary infrastructures and policy supports for the investors,” he added.

With Bangladesh’s growing interaction with Northeast and Eastern India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan and deepening regional and sub-regional connectivity–and absence of such an ETZ in this sub-region–the proposed project is expected to draw a sizable crowd from the region as well.

Besides, the proposed Sabrung ETZ on the world’s longest unbroken sea beach eventually may be one of the single-largest and spectacular ETZ in the world with the facilities in place.

It would contribute to deepening regionalism in South Asia and opening of the region with Bangladesh and a recognized production-distribution-logistic hub connecting to South and Southeast Asia and beyond, experts say.

Cox Bazar Teknaf Coastal Beach Tourism Zone

The planned ETZ enjoys support of the Prime Minister as part of the government’s pledge to comprehensively develop tourism in Cox’s Bazar under the ‘Establishment of Exclusive Tourist Zone at Sabrung, Cox’s Bazar,’ project.

Around 1165 acres of land has been earmarked and a feasibility study has already been initiated by the PPP office under PMO.

Deputy Manager (Planning) of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) Ziaul Haque Howlader said strategically Sabrung is located at such a place where the investors will be economically benefited.

Because, he explained, the Asian Highway will connect Myanmar through Teknaf. Besides, the Cox’s Bazar airport will be upgraded as an international one with the financial assistance from China.

He said there is a lucrative opportunity for international sea cruise covering Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Also there is scope for developing international-standard water-based recreational and sports facilities.

“Moreover this ETZ will attract visitors from neighbouring landlocked areas like Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal and Southeast China because of the connectivity,” Mr Haque added.

The proposed ETZ may offer facilities like star hotels, water villa/beach villa/cottage, food court, nightclub, health club, spa, art/craft gallery, helipad, car parking, cable car, walkway with umbrella and RCC bench, watch tower, water sports facilities, marine life aquarium, indoor/outdoor games, golf course, convention hall, business centre, cyclone shelter, lifeguard, tourist police camp, bar, auditorium, amusement park, jetty for water vessel, water vessel for sea cruising, banking facilities, landscaping, swimming pool and so.

The Financial Express

Image: Taofiq Ahmed Shahin, Hasin Hayder

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