Sundarbans, Bangladesh

Developing partnerships, improving conservation outcomes and providing community benefits through sustainable tourism development in and around the Sundarbans

  • Client: United States Agency for International Development
  • Partners: Journeys Plus, Conservation Capital, and Miles Partnership
  • Project Duration: November 1, 2021 - October 31, 2024

Project Overview 

USAID/Bangladesh, in partnership with the Bangladesh Ecotourism and Conservation Alliance (BECA) and the Government of Bangladesh, will focus interventions in and around one of Bangladesh’s most iconic tourism destinations and arguably most important protected area—the Sundarbans, the world’s largest remaining mangrove forest and a critical area for economically important fisheries, coastal communities, and the iconic Bengal tigers. The Sundarbans account for about 40 percent of forested land in Bangladesh. The region surrounding the protected area is home to millions of Bangladeshis who depend on the mangroves for food, livelihoods, and protection against cyclones. Continued poaching and trafficking, human-wildlife conflict, deforestation, oil spills, and unsustainable resource extraction threaten biodiversity in the Sundarbans and elsewhere. Increasing poverty due to severe impacts of climate change and unregulated tourism can further affect the biodiversity of Sundarbans. The Sundarban forest spans the border with India and is within 100 kilometers of both the Indian megalopolis of Kolkata and the Bangladeshi city of Khulna, where demand for natural resources produced within the Sundarbans is high.

The overall vision behind this program is to capitalize on the country’s natural, cultural, and historical endowments to develop a more inclusive tourism value chain that integrates local communities and maximizes conservation benefits. The goal of this activity is to “develop an inclusive tourism value chain capitalizing on the country’s natural, cultural, and historical endowments in and around Key Biodiversity Areas of Bangladesh.” The program will have four primary objectives:

  • Enhance target areas’ competitiveness as tourism destinations;
  • Improve tourism governance and natural resource management for targeted Key Biodiverse Areas (KBAs);
  • Increase community environmental, economic, and basic human service (such as livelihoods, water, sanitation, health) benefits as a result of a better managed and more inclusive tourism sector; and
  • Increase tourism-related investments and market linkages in targeted areas.

Major Activities 

  • Conduct a comprehensive mapping of sites on the targeted destination that require interventions to facilitate use by the private sector, or promote as tourist attractions
  • Create a strategic plan and an action matrix that result in a measurable increase in tourism visitors
  • Package and promote tourism to integrate and benefit local communities
  • Establish a Destination Management Organization (DMO) to help unite the private sector and support on-going development, management, and marketing of the targeted destination
  • Identify specific investment and PPP opportunities to assess existing concession policies
  • Communication and outreach for positive behavior change among tourists, residents, and destination managers
  • Conduct pride campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation among the neighboring communities of the protected areas. In parallel, this campaign will be broadened to create national pride for the Sundarbans and its World Heritage status
  • Explore existing technologies that can help promote tourism, destination mapping, and wildlife monitoring among tourists through apps or social media
  • Obtain commitments of at least $1 million worth of investments from the private sector

Anticipated Results

  • Competitiveness of tourism destinations in the targeted areas enhanced
  • Tourism governance and natural resource management for targeted Key Biodiverse Areas (KBAs) improved
  • Community environmental, economic, and health benefits improved as a result of an inclusive tourism sector in the targeted areas
  • Increased tourism investment and revenue in targeted areas

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