‘Tourism is the fastest-growing sector greatly contributing to the generation of foreign exchange and employment across the world’
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stressed the need for preparing a roadmap to promote Islamic tourism as a global brand, to unlock the potentials of its rapidly growing market.
“The value of Islamic tourism market will increase to $243 billion by 2021 with an annual 8.3% growth. So, we’ll have to take all-out efforts and prepare a roadmap aimed at promoting Islamic tourism as a global business brand, which will attract tourists further,” she said on Thursday, reports UNB.
The prime minister made the remarks while addressing the inaugural function of the two-day official celebration program of “Dhaka the OIC City of Tourism-2019” at the hotel InterContinental Dhaka.
According to a report, the number of Muslim tourists will rise to 180 million by 2020 from 156 million. By 2020, the world’s Muslim population will be 26%, she mentioned.
She said that according to Thomson Reuters report, Muslim populations globally spent a total of $151 billion on travel in 2015 — excluding Hajj and Umrah. Of the amount, OIC member states contributed $109 billion.
She said tourism was the fastest-growing sector greatly contributing to the generation of foreign exchange and employment across the world.
“There’s an urgent need to flourish our tourism sector [to attain our development targets]. In this case, Islamic tourism is the best possible area where we’ve the opportunity and potentials to work together,” she said.
Hasina said she strongly believed that OIC member states could encourage their private sector entities to invest individually and jointly in tourism infrastructure and development projects.
“Taking appropriate steps is very essential in order to promote intra-OIC tourist flows through easing visa, and for investment promotion, branding and standardization and capacity building,” she added.
She also expressed her gratitude to the OIC member states for selecting Dhaka as this year’s OIC City of Tourism and selecting Bangladesh as the chairperson of the 10th Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers for two years.
Noting that Islamic economy had flourished as a new phenomenon now, the prime minister said halal foods, Islamic finance, halal pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and halal tourism were some of the growing sectors of the Islamic economy.
“For flourishing of these sectors, enhanced cooperation and partnerships of both public and private sectors of the OIC Member States are needed,” she added.
About Bangladesh’s tourism sector, she emphasised flourishing the waterway tourism as the country was is a riverine one.
She said Bangladesh also had the scope to develop the waterway tourism with the countries having borders in the Bay of Bengal. “The matter has already been discussed and some measures have also been taken in this regard.”
About the world’s longest marine drive along the 127-km sandy sea beach in Cox’s Bazar, she said, “If the OIC countries want, we can designate and develop a particular place on the sea beach for their tourists.”
“Since we want to develop our tourism sector internationally, we can also designate and develop a separate place for the tourists from the western world,” Hasina told her audience.
Mentioning that the government wanted to increase the attraction of Cox’s Bazar further, she said her administration was now building an international airport there with refuelling facilities.
What Bangladesh has to offer
The prime minister said yesterday’s grand celebration of Dhaka for being the OIC City of Tourism would open a new door of cooperation for sustainable tourism development and acceleration of intra-OIC tourists’ flows, cooperation among OIC member states leading to their economic development.
She said that Bangladesh could be made more attractive to tourists, with its Cox’s Bazar sea beach, the Sundarbans mangrove forest, and many archaeological and Islamic sites and establishments — both ancient and modern.
She said that 400-year-old Dhaka city, which is situated on the bank of Buriganga River, also had many major attractive archaeological sites.
They included Ahsan Manzil, Lalbagh Fort, Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, Satgombuj Mosque, Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, Suhrawardy Udyan, Hussaini Dalan, Armenian Church and Dhakeshwari Temple.
Saying there were renowned religious establishments for the people of other faiths too, Hasina mentioned that the capital city could be made more attractive to not only Muslim tourists but also tourists from other countries.
She also highlighted the Pohela Boishakh celebration, Ekushey Book Fair, Rose Garden, Jamdani saree and Muslin, which is a brand name of pre-colonial Bengal textile.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdur Momen, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Md Mahbub Ali, and OIC Assistant Secretary General Musa Kulaklikaya also spoke on the occasion, among others.