Services and products of tourism
Table of Contents:
Existing tourism products and service offers in Bangladesh
Jameni Jabed Suchana, Uchmlayen and Muhammad Shoeb-Ur-Rahman
Tourism products serve various needs of a tourist. These products can be considered as the objects of the transactions between tourists and businesses (Koutoulas, 2004). Representing a significant part of tourism industry, tourism products and services gain attention from both tourism academics as well as practitioners. On this note, gaining a deep understanding of tourism products and services including their complex nature and relationship remains a challenging task (Mrnjavac, 1992). Tourism products help to extend tourist seasons, foster market awareness, position or re-position destinations, support investment, increase revenue, and improve the local economy. Accordingly, contribution of different tourism products towards tourism development is inevitable.
Bangladesh, a potential destination in the South Asian region attracts increasingly both domestic and foreign tourists by using an array of tourism products and services. However, the literature reveals little effort has been given on categorizing these tourism products and services. Identification of different categories can be helpful to target desirable tourism market segments and positions thereon upon the mind of the visitors. Considering such a limitation, this chapter attempts to provide an overview of existing tourism products and services in Bangladesh. In this regard a theoretical perspective has been developed and within the theoretical frame various tourism products and services have been categorized thereafter.
Tourism products and services
Tourism products and services arc invariably identified in association with tourism experiences and satisfying various tourists’ needs. Tourists in the postmodern era have been exhibiting varying interests (Rahman and Shahid, 2012). These interests raise the needs of tourists, which are satisfied through travelling (outside their usual place of residence) and experimenting with different tourism products. Seemingly, tourists enjoy several benefits from tourism products. Understanding the concept of tourism products is necessary both from supply and demand viewpoints. On the supply side, destinations can offer, develop, and manage profitable packages to tourists once the concept is clear. Correspondingly, an increased number of satisfied tourists creates a balance at the demand side.
Armstrong and Kotler (2016, p. 260) define products as a means to satisfy consumer demands which can be found in the form of “physical objects, services, persons, places, organizations, and ideas”. The theoretical underpinning of “tourism products” is equally all encompassing and entails tourism services within an existing frame (Cirikovic, 2014; Lewis and Chambers, 1989; Smith, 1994). The notion of tourism products has been elaborated by World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) (2019) as “a combination of tangible and intangible elements, such as natural, cultural and man-made resources, attractions, facilities, services and activities around a specific centre of interest which represents the core of the destination marketing mix and creates an overall visitor experience including emotional aspects for the potential customers”. Such a definition puts forward a generic and element-based view of tourism products.
Tourism products are mainly service-based products or services that have several characteristics including intangibility’, psychological involvement, perishability, heterogeneity, ownership complexity, and so on. For instance, to promote a particular destination in the off-season, events like fairs and festivals, which are offered to the tourists, are perishable and variable in nature. Again, targeting the specific market segments such as business tourism, different hotels and convention centres means offering different services like conference planning, organizing and management services. Some benefits pre-exist in different components of tourist’ products signifying the “physical plant” of “generic tourism product” (Smith, 1994). On the other hand, producers (industry’ suppliers) incorporate consciously' other ancillary benefits (i.e. services to ensure complete and satisfying experiences to tourists). From this perspective, tourism product can also be defined as a service that can be enjoyed by’ tourists from the place of origin, in a tourist destination, until returning to the residence.
Smith (1994) identifies five important elements to define tourism products: physical plant, service, hospitality, freedom of choice, and involvement. At the very' basic level, physical plant covers natural resources, conditions in the physical environment, and the design and layout of various physical components at a destination. The provision of services add utility' to core products, i.e. physical plants, whereas hospitality' indicates the extent of warmth in delivering services. Physical plants incorporate a destination-specific focus while both services and hospitality generate an employee-oriented focus in which developing human skills (capital) is essential to shape overall tourism products. Finally, freedom of choice and involvement elements take the stance from tourists’ or visitors’ side. Freedom of choice ensures that tourists must be provided with alternatives and involvement indicates the physical and psychological engagement of tourists into the experience-generating process. Taking all these elements into consideration, this study' has adapted tourism production function (as shown in Figure 2.1) to theorize the concept of tourism products in general.
Given the element-based discussions, tourism products entail all the four components (resources, facilities, services, and outputs) in the tourism production
Figure 2.1 Tourism products and services along the line of tourism production function
Source: Adapted from Smith (1994, p. 591)
function. However, resources and facilities are mostly destination-centric and signify the physical plant element of tourism products. Services inherently include the hospitality essence whereas desired outputs necessitate freedom of choice and involvement of tourists.
This study has been anchored with a qualitative research focus. The authors focus on a desk-based literature survey. The desk-based literature review made reference to both peer-reviewed publications as well as “grey literature” like secondary data sources. The literature search was framed by the keywords from the title of this paper such as tourism products, tourism services, Bangladesh tourism and so on. The thematic screening of literature has been further scoped and discussed within the conceptual framework as developed in the previous section (see Figure 2.1).
Brief profiling of tourism products and services in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a country in the South Asian region being blessed with a variety of attractive tourism products. However, lack of proper identification and categorization of these products left the country behind in utilizing such resources to attract appropriate tourists both from inbound and domestic tourism considerations. This chapter attempts to address the gap by concentrating on the identification, categorization, and discussion of various existing tourism products in Bangladesh.
Tourism products are a combination of tangible and intangible elements in the tourism production processes. These products can vary from events, things,
34 Suchana, Uchinlayen and Rahman
Table 2.1 Categories of existing tourism products in Bangladesh
or places to people and even organizations that motivate tourists to visit a destination. Following the conceptual framework, existing tourism products can be categorized as shown in Table 2.1.
The following sub-sections discuss briefly the various categories of tourism products, which are summarized in Table 2.1.
Resources indicate the core of a tourism product and these usually represent natural resources and environmental components that attract visitors at a particular destination. Good weather and climate play a significant role in making an enjoyable holiday. The recent growth trend of resorts (in remote places) in Bangladesh to some extent corresponds with the favourable weather and climate. This is particularly meaningful in a situation where tourists from countries with extreme weather usually prefer destinations with favourable weather. Bangladesh has diverse natural resources which can be marketed to attract tourists. For example, the country has the longest unbroken sandy sea beach in the world (i.e. Cox’s Bazar). Besides this beach, there are also numerous beaches that can attract more and more tourists such as Inani Beach, Patenga Sea Beach, and Kuakata Sea Beach. Inani Beach in real terms can be counted as a part of Cox’s Bazar. Patenga Sea Beach is located in Chittagong whereas Kuakata Sea Beach is located in the southeastern part of the country in Patuakhali District. In recent times, it has been observed that in all these beach areas tourism activities are increasing including parasailing, motorboat rides, surfing, swimming facilities and so on.
Topographical features of Bangladesh have exhibited six different seasons each of which beautifies with unique pattern. Such features also minimize the vulnerabilities associated with seasonality in tourism demand (Rahman et al., 2020). For nature and adventure lovers, islands can also be an enthusing choice. Islands of Bangladesh offer natural scenic beauty with exotic flora and fauna; places of worship like churches and temples; local lifestyles, local foods, fairs and festivals and so on. Popular island destinations in Bangladesh include St. Martin’s, Moheskhali, and Nijhum Dip. However, more island destinations particularly in the Barisal division are approaching such as Bhola Island and Monpura Island.
Bangladesh is mostly a low-lying country except the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) in the southeast and Sylhet’s northeast region. The formation of hills in these regions is soil-based unlike many other places in the world where rockbased surfaces are quite visible. Such kind of formation impacted upon the vegetation and featured with tropical semi-deciduous forests. Altogether the regions provide scenic landscapes as core tourism products. Alongside these, a few protected areas are increasingly becoming an attraction for visitors. Bangladesh has 19 national parks and 20 wildlife sanctuaries along with five noteworthy conservation sites and one World Heritage Site (i.e. Sundarban Mangrove Forest) (Forest Department, 2019). Beside forests, there are also some noteworthy waterfalls that attract tourists including Madhabkunda, Ham Ham, Jadipai, Nafa Klium, Shuvolong, and Shitakundo. Another tourist attraction is the valleys, also known as dale. In recent years, Sajek Valley in the Rangamati Hill District is found as the most prominent one in this segment. The valley is approximately 1,800 feet above sea level and located near the Indian border city of Mizoram.
In terms of water-based tourism, Bangladesh has immense potential since the country represents the biggest river delta in the world. The numbers, sizes, and networks of rivers in Bangladesh raise the prospect of “riverine tourism”. However, river cruises in the country focused mostly on the Sundarban area with a typical three- to four-night stay (Siddiqi, 2018). In addition to rivers, a few lakes are also contributing in tourism such as Foy’s Lake, Meghla Lake, Kaptai Lake, Mahamaya Lake, Madhobpur Lake, and Bagakain Lake.
Facilities are human-created elements that facilitate service offerings and broaden freedom of choice for visitors. Industry stakeholders generate a combination of tour packages in concentration of various facilities at destinations. The culture of a host community perhaps nowadays becomes a great source of inspiration for visitors, which is created by humans and transformed from one generation to another. There are numerous cultural elements that exist in society that help tourism businesses to broaden the range of offerings to visitors. One of the most important elements can be found as places of historical significance. Bangladesh has a number of archaeological sites being criticized on the ground of lack of facilities to market as tourism products. A few mentionable names are Dhar-marajika Buddha Vihara, Mahasthangarh, Paharpur Mahavihara, Golden Temple,
Kantaji Temple, Shaat Gambuj Mosque, Ahsan Manjil, National Martyr’s Memorial, Central Shahid Minar, Lalbag Fort and so on. Some of these sites are also regarded as holy places for religious tourists such as Shaat Gambuj Mosque for Muslims. Among these sites, UNESCO has declared Paharpur Mahavihara and Shaat Gambuj Mosque as World Heritage Sites.
The qualities and varieties of museums and art galleries at a destination are good indicators in terms of destination heritage and cultural richness as well as edification from an evolutionary perspective. These are the places to acquire knowledge and information about a destination (resources). There are varieties of museums around Bangladesh to be marketed as tourism products. In this vein, poor management of tourism facilities has been observed in most of the settings. A few notable museums and galleries include Bangladesh National Museum, Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, National Museum of Science and Technology, Cox’s Bazar Fisheries Museum, Fish Museum and Biodiversity Centre, Bangladesh Maritime Museum, Liberation War Museum, Tribal Museum, National Art Gallery and so on. Besides museums and art galleries, the country has many attractive zoos and parks to provide entertainment to tourists. Some significant zoos of the country are Dhaka National Zoo, Gazipur Borendra Park, Nijhum Dhip Park, Dulhazra Safari Park, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park and so on.
Bangladesh has different religious events and festivals that involve great gatherings to share spiritual thoughts. Religious places are destinations where tourists of different religions can visit for holy purposes. People from home and abroad travel to these sacred places and experience events with joy and religious spirits (Alauddin ct al., 2014). Bishwa (World) Ijtcma, a religious congregation ofMus-lims after the hajj can be cited in this connection. Similarly, some other events can be identified for other religions, for example, Durga Puja and Krishna Jan-mashtami for Hindus, Buddha’s birthday and Modhu Purnima for Buddhists, and Christmas for Christians. These events arc promising tourism products to promote VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) tourism. Apart from the individual religious perspective, there are events in Bangladesh that offer a cosmopolitan view. For instance, Bengali New Year or Pahela Baishakh (in Bengali), International Mother Language Day, Lalon Fair and so on. In summary, Bangladesh has immense prospects in terms of event- and festival-focused tourism (Rahman et al., 2019).
The ethnic lifestyles of different communities at different parts of the country are considered as distinct tourism products (facilities). A few ethnic communities in Bangladesh can be noted as Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Mro, Santals, Khasi, Rakhain, Garos, and Manipuri. Most of these communities formed their ancestral root to the “mongoloid” group. They possess unique culture, religion, beliefs, and cultural resources which appeal to tourism facilities. Protection and preservation of ethnic lifestyles remain key considerations for a pro-tourism government (who develops tourism-friendly policies). Additionally, native life and customs of ethnic communities can be a good subject to research and generate knowledge.
Bangladesh has a strong cultural background for dance and music. The most remarkable dances in Bangladesh are folk dances, Baul dances, Chhau dance, Dak dance, Dhali dance, Fakir dance, Gambhira dance, Ghatu dance, Jari dance, Kali dance and so on. Some ethnic dances may include Chakma bamboo dance, Marma prodip (lamp) dance, Santa! dance, Manipuri dance, and so on. Lack of preservation and practice efforts lead to the extinction of some ethnic dances. Along with dance, the music of Bangladesh has a rich heritage whether it is classical or folk. In order to promote the music of Bangladesh, different music festivals are organized on regular periods such as the Dhaka World Music Festival, Dhaka International FolkFest and so on. Finally, arts and handicrafts have always remained important for tourists to recreate memories after years. Tourists travel to a destination and buy handicrafts or art works as souvenirs. In Bangladesh, destinationcentric (local) souvenir shop facilities are not available while most of the shops are located at city or urban level. This situation impacts negatively on local supply chain effectiveness and economic leakage.
Beside cultural and historical elements, commercial theme parks or amusement parks are recreational facilities where visitors can enjoy their leisure time. In Bangladesh, these kinds of recreational facilities are located at different destinations. For example, Fantasy Kingdom Amusement Park (theme park), Shishu (Children) Park, Heritage Park Concord, Water Kingdom, Foy’s Lake Amusement World (theme park), Bangladesh Butterfly Park, Dream Holiday Park and so on.
Good shopping facilities are an essential requirement to satisfy tourists. This indicates a place where tourists can spend their time shopping for necessary products as well as souvenir items. To provide shopping facilities, large malls and markets are chiefly available in city-based destinations in Bangladesh such as Jamuna Future Park and Bashundhara City Shopping Complex at Dhaka, “new markets” at district levels, duty-free shopping facilities at different airports, and so on. These places also come up with sources of entertainment and recreation for visitors. For instance, different movie theatres (e.g. STAR Cineplex, Blockbuster Cinemas) provide leisure and recreation opportunities by watching or enjoying movies.
The tourism industry requires a third-party intervention to ensure services provision. This industry is complex in nature and services are provided to optimize tourists’ satisfaction. The varied tourism demands and needs of the tourists make it difficult to distinguish tourism products and services and often researchers identify the term as “tourism products” in general. Tourism services are usually catered by the intervention of tourism and hospitality industry (Goeldner and Ritchie, 2009).
To provide accommodation services with modern facilities and aesthetic appeals, many world-class and mid-range or economy-class hotels and resorts are established in Bangladesh. Some popular hotels and resorts in Bangladesh are
Intercontinental Hotel, Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, Dhaka Regency Hotel and Resorts, Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel, Dusai Resort and Spa, Elenga Resort (in Tangail), Padma Resort (in Munshigonj), Arunima Resort (in Norail), Royal Tulip Sea Pearl Beach Resort and Spa (at Inani Beach), Mermaid Eco Resort, Grand Sultan Tea Resort and Golf (in Sylhet), the Palace (in Sylhet), and so on. These hotels and resorts provide core services of lodging or augmented services of gym, spa, conference, convention, food and beverage, and many others.
Accessibility is one of the most important elements for tourism development in any country. A wide variety of transportation systems are provided in Bangladesh to ensure greater accessibility. The surface transports in Bangladesh include road vehicles (bus, rickshaw, auto-rickshaw, tuk-tuk, cars, taxis, etc.), railway, and waterway vehicles (ships, launches, ferries, boats). For air transport, many local airlines in Bangladesh are performing both domestic and international flights such as Biman Bangladesh Airlines (the national carrier), US Bangla Airlines, Regent Airways, Novo Air and so on. Both the accommodation and accessibility services are made available to visitors through wholesale and retail services, in which tour operators provide the wholesale services and travel agents deliver retail services. In Bangladesh, there are around 586 agencies operating tours at home and abroad (Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh, 2019). Being the key industry stakeholders, travel agents and tour operators handle all the tour-related activities including hotel room reservation and cancellation, package design, ticket reservation, networking with local and international tourism ministry/industry. On this note, the industry requires highly trained professionals with necessary expertise to keep up destination developments initiatives.
Different people travel for different purposes. Of them, business travellers are a rewarding market segment. These types of travellers travel with a purpose to arrange or attend seminars, workshops, conferences, and the like. A few notable conference and convention centres in Bangladesh are Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC), BRAC Centre, Krishibid Institution Bangladesh, Spectra Convention Centre (SCC), Bangladesh China Friendship Conference Centre (BCFCC) and so on. Various types of training, conferences, conventions, seminars, meetings, and exhibitions are hosted at these venues. These venues aim to provide standard services, luxurious banquet halls, business conference facilities, car parking facilities, and so on. The most recent modern and well-furnished convention hall and conference centre located in Bangladesh are the place for weddings, business conferences, seminars, and socio-cultural gatherings.
Based on the quality and quantity of resources, facilities and services provision diverse types of tourism experiences can lead to satisfaction or dissatisfaction of visitors. Bangladesh as a potential tourism market in the South Asian region has the latent features to produce the following types of tourism experiences.
Visiting scenic beauty is one of the major reasons of tourism. In Bangladesh, there are many natural and manmade attractions. Both domestic and foreign tourists can visit Bangladesh to enjoy such attractions at various destinations within the country (Das and Chakraborty, 2012). At a specific level, river-based tourism can be a good example.
Given the diverse natural resource base, Bangladesh has potential to explore ccotourism destinations (Tuhin and Majumder, 2011). However, lack of proper planning and unstructured involvement of the private sectors raise the ultimate challenges for ecotourism success in Bangladesh (Rahman and Shahid, 2012).
Rural tourism is tourism that basically takes place in a rural setting by observing and/or experiencing local lifestyles and resources. The prospect of rural or village tourism is immense in Bangladesh provided the number of villages across Bangladesh. In a broader spectrum, rural tourism focuses three core elements: people, space, and products (Bran et al., 1997). The product elements of rural tourism emphasize various attractions and activities to engage visitors in the most satisfying state of affairs (Ahmed and Jahan, 2013; Rahman et al., 2018).
With a diverse range of cultural elements, Bangladesh has exhibited opportunities for cultural tourism such as ethnic tourism, religious tourism, and gastronomy. For example, the country holds a secular philosophy and visitors from the major religions (e.g. Buddhism, Islam, Hindu, Christianity) pay visit to numerous religious monuments and sacred places to satisfy their spiritual souls (Al-Masud, 2015).
Medical tourism is a recent dimension in Bangladesh that is based on providing health care facilities and services to tourists (both domestic and international). The country fails to develop this niche market of tourism in comparison to neighbouring country India (Hassan et al., 2015). The rapid growth of numerous medical centres, hospitals, and pharmaceutical sectors bear a clear indication of improvement in terms of medical facilities. However, to get benefit from this particular segment, alternative forms of treatment can give a good result such as ayurveda or yoga.
Dark tourism means travelling to plaees associated with tragedy, grief, and similar themes. Bangladesh is a destination exhibiting a number of historical sites with the appeal of dark tourism. For example, the Central Shaheed Minar, the Bang-abandhu Memorial Museum (where the father of the nation was assassinated), War Cemetery and the Liberation War Museum are a few distinguished dark tourism sites. To conceptualize, the Central Shaheed Minar is a monument inside the University of Dhaka campus that signifies the sacrifice made by the Bengali people for their mother language.
This study explores that Bangladesh has a wide range of tourism products to attract both inbound and domestic tourists and thereby enable different forms of tourism. Although tourism products and services are used sometimes as separate terms, literature indicates “tourism product” is a wider concept encapsulating “tourism services” within the definitional frame of the former term. Accordingly, tourism products emphasize the core products or resources whereas services highlight ancillary activities that shape ultimately the core products and enhance marketability of a destination. The categories of tourism products include resources, facilities, services, and outputs. The basis of categorization of tourism products has followed the generic tourism production process. The current study identifies an array of existing tourism products and services, which can be used for tourism promotion in Bangladesh. In addition, proper balancing of demands and supply needs to be considered that can also be supplemented by effective policy planning and ensuring efficient management of these products and services.
The implication is quite obvious to policymakers who can develop appropriate plans and strategies based on the categorization of existing tourism products. This study however is exclusively based on secondary sources of information. Future research can add different primary sources such as site visits, industry expert interviews and so on to ensure rigorousness of the findings. Besides the methodological issue, an operational focus can add value in terms of effective marketing and management of a destination at national scale i.e. Bangladesh or at some local scales such as regional level (e.g. the Chittagong Hill Tracts region).
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