BY DEBASHREE CHAKRABORTY
DHAKA ( BANGLADESH), 1 JULY 2022
As Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed dedicated to the nation the iconic Padma Bridge on 25 June , the dream of Bongobondhu is fullfilled as Bangladesh leapfrogs into the new economy.
The 6.15 kilometre long rail- road bridge constructed on River Padma is all set to reduce travel time of travel and distance between Dhaka and Kolkata, two of the most important cities of the world and is also earthquake resistant.
Not only that it will usher a new era for one of the world’s youngest nation, but also the new Padma bridge is now set to become a game changer in the travel and tourism sector of Bangladesh. Vehicle operating costs and travel time both will be significantly reduced, says experts.
After the grand inauguration, PM Sheikh Hasina released a commemorative postage stamp and currency note to celebrate the opening of the biggest self financing mega project.
Talking to The Travel and Tourism Times, Abu Taher Mohammad Jaber, Chief Executive Officer of Bangladesh Tourism Board is ecstatic.
“ The infrastructure in Barishal and Khulna will improve now which will help further in boosting tourism in Bangladesh both inland and inbound,” he added.
Bangladesh is set to release its Tourism Road Map for the future in December this year. It has plans to completely overhaul the tourism sector to attract fresh investments, even foreign direct investment. As per the mega tourism revamp plan about 1100 tourism hotspots will be revamped, new infrastructure will be set up with special emphasis to Khulna and Barisal due to the new Padma bridge. New tourism destinations will also be set up like a project currently underway at Sonarchar in Patuakhali’s Rangabali sub district.
Three out of the eight administrative divisions of the country- Dhaka, Khulna and Barisal fall under the south western side of Bangladesh.
Several hundreds of local tour operators organise tours to the Sundarbans , the world’s largest mangrove forest, a refuge of the majestic big cat- The Royal Bengal Tiger, which remains the cynosure of all tourist eyes despite the presence of myriad other wild animals, birds and reptiles.
Contribution of the Travel and Tourism sector to GDP of Bangladesh grew by 0.16 % from 4.4% in 2018 to 4.4 % in 2019, before the covid -19 pandemic broke out. In 2021, the contribution of tourism to the gross domestic product of the country was estimated to be 3.02 percent.
Between 2009 and 2018, Bangladesh received US$1157 million from the travel sector. It also created 2.23 million jobs per year. The present Bangladesh Tourism industry economy is BDT 500 million according to a recent study.
“Already a number of beach side restaurants and hotels have started renovation and upgradation works near the scenic Kuakata beach, popularly known as Sagar Kanya ( Daughter of the Sea). This year the accommodations of hotels have been very high during the Eid holidays and hope that once the bridge fully becomes operational the inflow of tourists will rise,”said Abdul Motaleb Sharif , general secretary of Kuakata Motel Hotel Owners Association.
The tourists visit these eateries in search of their favourite foods, the mouth watering signature dish of the famous Padma Hilsa and its egg.
“ Now more domestic tourists will be attracted as tourists will now have the option to travel smoothly and less expensively either by road or railways. We have to take the expensive air route while organising Sundarban trips to foreign inbound tourists since the past thirty years ,” says Masud Hossain, MD of Bengal Tours.
The new multipurpose Padma Bridge is the longest bridge in the country and will reduce travel time from the capital city of Dhaka to Mongla seaport, which is a hub of international and regional trade. The bridge will connect 21 districts with the southwest region of Bangladesh, which covers 27 percent of the country’s population.
The multipurpose Padma bridge has the deepest piling work in the world and ranked as the world’s 122 nd longest bridge. Bangladesh is a deltaic region and major rivers crisscross the country hence building the Padma River bridge was of utmost importance for its 170 million population.
The construction work began in 2015 and it was completed in December last year. The cost of the project is US$3.6 billion. The two storied multipurpose bridge provides road and rail transit. The full traffic capacity will be 75,000 vehicles per day.
Praising highly about the completion of the mega infrastructure project, Vikram Kumar Doraiswami, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh in Dhaka said that this Padma bridge will connect people and the culture and not just act as a mere route of business.
According to economists, the Padma bridge is estimated to contribute about 1.2 % of annual GDP growth of Bangladesh which is a whopping US $10 billion. After 50 years of independence Bangladesh has now bridged both its mighty rivers – Padma and Jamuna, as the country’s constant pursuit to become an Asian Tiger gets closer.