Although the ongoing Dhaka International Trade Fair DITF-2018 is considered an ideal platform to promote the country’s tourism industry, the month-long event is mainly focusing on trade, with no heed to the potential of the tourism sector.
The scenario becomes even clearer roaming around the fair venue as there is surprisingly no stall belonging to tour operators in the 23rd edition of the DITF.
Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) and Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) have their pavilions, which appear to be failing to carry out marketing campaign as expected, mainly due to lack of proper planning in this regard.
There are no brochures or leaflets featuring the services the BPC provides or information on tourist spots of Bangladesh at its pavilion. On the other hand, the BTB pavilion seems to be unconcerned about promotional activities.
Rather, a private initiative called Sundarbans Eco-Park has come up with its own ideas at the annual fair, aiming to promote tourism by drawing attention of visitors through showcasing the picturesque beauty of the Sundarbans.
The firm, however, claims to have been receiving little support from the government on its way to tourism marketing.
During recent visits, this reporter found no officials available at the BTB and BPC pavilions.
At the BTB pavilion, which is a small one, only three employees were seen on duty.
Ducking a question on how visitors benefit from the pavilion, Mushfiq Ahmed, working as brand promoter, on Friday said they only provide information to visitors.
Interestingly, during the two hours that the reporter spent at there, not a single overseas visitor was found approaching them.
Defending the situation, Mushfiq said very few foreigners visit the pavilion, most are local visitors. Nonetheless, despite claiming to have been working under the supervision of a BTB official, who was missing at the scene then, Mushfiq did not give his contact number.
Meanwhile, the BPC pavilion mainly houses a restaurant called Malancha erected just opposite the BTB pavilion. The pavilion is blanketed with posters of tourist spots, with a giant food list hanging there. The eatery also offers a 30% flat discount at any BPC hotel or motel against any order for food worth Tk1,000 or more.
On Friday, three employees were sitting at the cash counter of the restaurant selling fast food only, but there was no BPC official then.
When requested for the contact numbers of the concerned officials on Thursday, they declined to provide those.
In the latest development, Mostafizur Rahman, manager of BPC’s Hotel Abakash, who is in charge of the pavilion, was not noticed there from 12 noon to 2pm on Saturday.
BPC Executive Officer Md Solayman Hossain said they took part in the DITF for the very first time and claimed that they were getting impressive response from the visitors.
In defence of their move not to sell traditional cuisine, Solayman said they went for junk food keeping in mind the demand of visitors.
Banker Rashdul Islam, who was seen hovering around at the makeshift restaurant, said he was disappointed with the services being rendered there.
“It is way better to google information related to tourism in Bangladesh than contacting the government agencies,” he suggested.
Sundarbans Eco-Park, an amusement park resembling the world’s largest mangrove forest, lies to the south of the BPC pavilion.
Both the BTB and BPC had earlier pointed fingers to each other in their reply to a question over who actually founded the makeshift park.
But, an entry to the park cleared the confusion as the Dhaka Tribune got hold of Zamiur Rahman Lemon, founder and concept designer of the park.
Lemon said that they first proposed setting up such an infrastructure in the annual fair, to the Tourism Ministry back in 2012.
“We have been participating in the fair with the eco-park since 2013, in order to create mass awareness about the Sundarbans and environment,” he continued.
He hoped that the initiative will also encourage tourists to enjoy the scenic beauty scattered in parts of the country.
According to Lemon, he had to manage sponsors for his entire project in the last five years. But this time around, he received a partial sponsorship, which forced him to bear the rest of the costs on his own.
“I did contact the government authorities, tourism firms and tour operators to help with the project, but to no avail,” he said, expressing his disappointment over the situation.
Md Shohanur Rahman Swapan, director (public relations) of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh, on Saturday said they did not really consider participating this year’s DITF.
“We actually forgot about the tapping the opportunities of tourism marketing in the fair. But, we will definitely discuss the matter in our board meeting tomorrow (Sunday) about taking part in the fair in association with the BTB from next year,” he said.