Sunset at Kuakata sea beach
Sunset at Kuakata sea beach Prothom Alo

“Bangladesh is not yet prepared for solo trips of girls. So we launched a group tour. Each travel group consists of 36 girls, yet some hoteliers don’t want to rent rooms to the group. They want at least one male member despite 36 females in the group.”

Sakia Haque, a physician by profession, described her experience this way. She along with another physician friend has opened a travel group named ‘Travelettes of Bangladesh- Bhraman Konya’ on the Facebook which now boasts around 55 thousand female members. They have so far organised 86 tours in last three years. It s not a commercial venture. The organise the turs at cost price.

Some more women-only travel groups are operating in the country, some of which are operational commercially. Around 500 more online groups are organising tours for male and female tourists alike.

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Travelers of Bangladesh (ToB), the most popular among the online travel groups, are being run by volunteers. They discover new travel destinations in the country and work to popularize the culture of travelling. The group also works to sensitise travellers towards Nature. Those youths are working as torchbearers of the country’s tourism sector.

Upon talking with more than one tour group, it is learnt that the youth have come forward in the last one decade to uphold tourism in the country. They are popularizing tourism inside the country and discovering places by positively using the Facebook network. While the traditional tour operators are incurring losses in the wake of coronavirus, these online groups have remained quite buoyant. They are now busy as tourist spots are slowly reopening after the lockdown.

Online Travelers Association of Bangladesh (OTAB) and Bangladesh e-Travelers Association (BETA) are the two organisations working on the sector. OTAB has 75 members and BETA 140. Members of the organisations said some of them even operate foreign tours. Some of those tour operators have their own resorts, restaurants and cruise ships.

Three friends started a travel group named ‘Tour Group Bangladesh (TGB)’ in 2014. They have served 11,000 tourists in 900 trips so far. Their Facebook group now consists of around 600,000 members.

Imranul Alam, managing director of the group, said TGB has bought resorts, cars and cruise ships for better service of the tourists.

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A 30-thousand-member Facebook group ‘Hit the Trail’ has been operating tours, mostly in the hill tracts, since the last three years.

Ataul Islam, founder of the group, said people in droves are going out as they were stuck during the lockdown.

“We are operating four trips at a time and are busier than usual times,” he said.

Britto Travel and Tourism’s founder Mazharul Islam said they are operating tours in rather faraway places instead of well-trodden destinations.

International tourism may not become normal in next year. Community based tourism is not yet so popular in our country like in India and Nepal.

Online groups said they are trying to initiate community based tourism in different places of the country.

Bangladesh tourism board’s chief executive officer Zabed Ahmed told Prothom Alo that they are placing more emphasis on internal tourism and community based tourism. The travellers should be taken to villages, with all facilities provided.

A tourist can contribute to employment for 10 people, he added.