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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Keeping tourists safe - Bangaladesh

Tourism is a very fragile industry. Once a bad thing happens at a destination, it sweeps very quickly to other destinations and tourists. Then tourists may avoid visiting the country, which results in economic loss


The Tourist Police can be a beneficial addition to Bangladesh’s booming tourism industry 

A unit of the Bangladesh Police, the “Tourist Police,” has recently been formed in the country. The Tourist Police has already been deployed at Cox’s Bazaar and Chittagong, while a few police vehicles have already been seen plying the streets of Cox’s Bazar and Dhaka.

This newly created unit of the police has been entrusted with the responsibility of providing security to the tourists and protecting all the tourist spots in our country. One of its foremost objectives is to improve the image of Bangladesh as a country of peace-loving people, to the world, and help develop our tourism industry to live up to its potential.

The Tourist Police Unit primarily embarked upon its journey with two divisions -- Chittagong and Dhaka -- under a DIG. The areas that come under Chittagong divisions are Chittagong district, the Hill Tracts, and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh’s prime tourist destinations.

Under the Dhaka division, the areas are Dhaka, Sylhet, and Kuakata. Each division is supervised by an additional DIG. Each division is then, again, divided into three zones. Each zone will work with an additional SP as its head. The sanctioned manpower strength of the Tourist Police unit is 699 in total so far.

The formation of the Tourist Police, as far as it seems, has been good for the tourism industry. However, to carry out the task, the Tourist Police needs proper training and orientation. As the tourism industry is a specialised sector -- it is, in fact, a service-oriented industry -- they need to be made knowledgable of some basic concepts of tourism in addition to some service-oriented customs and rules.

Tourist Police members will need to work in concordant collaboration with service providers and all other related stakeholders to be effective. Their job is to ensure safe and smooth movement of both individual and grouped tourists, and their vehicles, to and from major destinations. The Tourist Police may also provide the service of removing all the obstacles that tourists tend to face, such as purse-snatchers, goons, nuisances, and other such monkey business. Additionally, they also have to extend support to the elderly and physically challenged.

But suffice it to say, they have many challenges ahead to ensure that services are provided smoothly. On the one hand, they will provide safety and security to tourists. And on the other, they have to ensure the privacy of tourists. Tourists tend to be much more sensitive about their privacy. Honeymooners, couples, and families may visit a destination and we all should take the utmost care to ensure that their privacy is not violated. Otherwise, it will tarnish the image of country as a whole.

It is also crucial that the Tourist Police are plainclothes officers, donning raiments that let them blend among the tourists. This will prevent tourists from being anxious about something dangerous.

It is important to remember that the people who come to visit our nation are valuable guests. As a result, we should treat as we do people we invite into our homes, to make them feel welcome. They are, after all, here to spend their leisure time, which results in our economic gain.

It is, therefore, imperative that the members of the team are properly trained, such as through courses offered by various institutes, including the BPC-run NHTTI. When necessary, the Tourist Police may need to work as a guide, an interpreter, a rescuer, or a primary aid provider. Hence, there is no alternative to tourism training for the newborn Tourist Police unit.

Tourism, in effect, is a very fragile industry. Once a place acquires a bad reputation, it spreads like wildfire among other destinations and tourists. This will, no doubt, result in economic loss.

Tourism is also a vastly multi-dimensional industry. A Chinese study has shown that there are 80 sectors involved in this industry alone.

There are various segments of tourists. All segments and ages of tourists may visit a destination together. With this in mind, the Tourist Police should be trained to cater to the needs of all kinds of individuals, as tourists will, of course, boast a vast range of cultural backgrounds and special needs.

Apart from the above, the Tourist Police may work on the following issues of the industry: (1) Safeguarding tourism resources from theft and destruction; (2) protecting archaeological relics; (3) escorting vehicles carrying foreign tourists during hartal and strikes; (3) rescue tourists when and if in danger; (4) ensure safety and security in the rural areas; (5) evict illegal occupants from protected areas.

The task ahead for this new branch of the police will be a monumental one, and should not be underestimated. According to BPC statistics, more than 800 tourist attractions have already been identified. At present, around 25 are landmark tourist attractions, where around 6 million tourists visit every year. In Cox’s Bazar alone, around 1.5 million tourists, of which 5% are foreign, visit every year, and more than 500,000 foreign tourists visited in 2013.

The volume of domestic tourism is gradually increasing and it is expected that the magnitude of foreign tourists’ arrivals in Bangladesh will be higher in the future. And with their tastes changing every day, the Tourist Police's services will eventually need to be expanded.

To reach a satisfactory level for our tourism industry, the role of the Tourist Police is significant. The road ahead is long, but it is one worth taking. They will play a vital role in enhancing the country’s image, building confidence of the potential domestic and foreign tourists, and ensuring a smooth journey for senior citizens and physically-challenged tourists. One cannot help but hope that the Tourist Police overcomes all challenges and contributes to the socio-economic development of Bangladesh. 

Source: Dhaka Tribune, 23rd June 2015 

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