BD ignores another golden opportunity to showcase tourist attractions
_By Raquib Siddiqi01 Aug, 2019 | 1152 Views|-+
Members of the visiting OIC representatives are seen in front of the Bangladesh Folk Art and Craft Museum in Sonargaon, while they were taken on a tour there _Photo : Monitor
Dhaka : Bangladesh has ignored another golden opportunity to showcase its unique and attractive tourist attractions-this time-to the tourist generating members of Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC).
Dhaka was awarded the honour of being "OIC City of Tourism 2019" and that provided golden opportunity. But the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism (MOCAT) and Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) are to blame for inaction to utilise the opportunity.
Speaking at the inaugural function to celebrate Dhaka's OIC city of tourism 2019 events on July 11 in Dhaka, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, "The value of Islamic tourism market will increase to USD 243 billion by 2021 with an annual 8.3 per cent growth. So, all-out efforts and roadmap aiming at promoting Islamic tourism as a global business brand is urgently required."
Referring to a Thomson-Reuters report that forecasted tremendous potential of Islamic tourism, Sheikh Hasina said, "Muslim populations globally spent a total of USD 151 billion on travel in 2015 (excluding Hajj and Umrah). Of the amount, OIC member states contributed to USD 109 billion."
By 2020, the world's Muslim population will be 26 per cent of the entire world population while the number of Muslim tourists will rise to 180 million from 156 million within that year, she mentioned.
The speech of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina provides evidence that the concerned government agencies were not totally unaware about the size of tourist generating market in OIC countries and potential of Bangladesh to attract them. Why no action to promote Bangladesh taken? MOCAT and BTB know better.
It may be recalled that Dhaka was chosen the "City of Tourism for 2019" by tourism ministers of OIC member states at the closing session of the 10th Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM) that was held here last year.
Dhaka achieved the honour, ahead of four other cities of OIC countries and its closest contestant Gabala of Azerbaijan was made the "City of Tourism" for 2020.
With the inauguration, Bangladesh officially started the celebration of its capital Dhaka's achievement as "OIC City of Tourism 2019", but unfortunately with no known plan aiming at showcasing rich Muslim heritage of the 400-year old city before the global community, especially Muslim tourists, the award in fact becomes meaningless.
This indeed can be termed as great failure and very poor tourism management. A look at the objectives of the programme or the award will show that.
Objectives of the award
The 7th Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM), which was held in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, on November 28-30, 2010, mandated the OIC General Secretariat in consultation with OIC Member States to initiate annual "OIC City of Tourism" award in recognition of exceptional contributions to the improvement of tourism in OIC Member States.
Moreover, the 7th Session of the ICTM also mandated the General Secretariat of the OIC to create a mechanism and criteria for the selection and granting of an Award, in consultation with OIC Member States.
"OIC City of Tourism" award is a tourism development initiative capable of playing a major role for sustainable and long term development of the economies in OIC Member States as well as improving welfare and livelihood of their peoples.
Moreover, OIC City of Tourism can bring enormous benefits for a city in social and economic terms, during the year itself and beyond. It is a unique opportunity to regenerate cities, to change their image and to make it better known at OIC Member States and international scale, which can help to develop tourism.
No promotional effort
According to the objectives, Dhaka's selection as OIC City of Tourism 2019, presented golden opportunity to Bangladesh to promote the country and its 400-year old historic capital city.
This far, the government, MOCAT and BTB made no effort to realise the objectives of the award that Dhaka city received by promoting the city and Bangladesh at least in some tourist generating OIC countries.
Unfortunately, apart from taking no promotional marketing effort, the relevant authorities-MOCAT and BTB-preferred to remain salient until inauguration of the celebration.
Large growing market
With spending by Muslim travellers on course to reach USD 220 billion by 2020, with the number of Muslim tourists growing to 156 million from 121 million in 2016 and Islam the fastest-growing religion in the world, Muslim tourists are definitely some of the most important customers in the travel market. That's according to the Global Muslim Travel Index (GTMI) 2017, which was produced by Mastercard and CrescentRating, a 'halal-friendly' travel consultancy.
'Halal' tourism is clearly a growing market segment, with Muslim tourists seeking destinations, which meet their needs, in terms of diet, dress or rituals. Translated from Arabic, 'halal' means permissible in accordance with Islamic teaching. Alcohol, pork, nudity and gambling are off limits.
With a burgeoning middle class and increasing disposable income, many countries - whether Muslim or not - are looking to attract these travellers. Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Turkey are among the leading Muslim destinations.
This far, the action of the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), the NTO arranged city tours for OIC member state representatives who came to attend the inaugural function, in the afternoon of July 11. Some sightseeing tours and cultural functions were arranged for the OIC delegation, during their stay in Dhaka.
"We will showcase Dhaka's rich cultural and Muslim heritage, especially the archaeology, in front of OIC member state representatives, to encourage them to promote our tourism in their respective countries," M Mohibul Haque, Secretary of Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry told a news agency before the inaugural function.
Dr Bhubon Chandra Biswas, CEO, Bangladesh Tourism Board said the celebration would highlight Dhaka as an unparalleled city of history, heritage and culture among OIC member countries. "It will also tighten the bond and extend areas of cooperation in relation to development of tourism among the member states," he said.
These words seem to be no more than wishful thinking, devoid of reality.
As it is not understood and the minister and CEO of BTB did not explain that in the absence of marketing drive, how this two-day celebration in Dhaka - limited to inaugural function, sightseeing to selected historic relics etc - by some visiting officials, going to attract tourists to Bangladesh from OIC member countries.
Even, the Dhaka function was marred by low-level poor attendance and representation. Relevant authorities in Bangladesh failed to create enough interest about the function in Dhaka, among the OIC member countries. As a result, less than half of OIC countries, sent representatives to attend Dhaka function and that representation too at lower level. There was only one minister among those who came.
It must be noted here that the representatives of some OIC countries, who came to Dhaka to attend the inaugural function, are not supposed to and certainly not expected to market tourism products of Bangladesh, in their respective countries, as expected by the learned minister.
Moreover, tourists are not government delegates; they make their own selection according to interest, where to visit, when to visit and how to visit. It is our job to make them interested about our attractions or products. Government officials - of any country - have little say in this regard.