Dhaka, Bangladesh
Long-term strategy to boost tourism sector stressed

Long-term strategy to boost tourism sector stressed

By Masroor Mawla, Mahmouda Moumita and Taswar Ahmed

Bangladesh should devise mid- and long-term strategy to boost the tourism sector as the country will celebrate the golden jubilee of the independence in 2021. The country is set to post 8.00 per cent GDP growth, the highest growth among Asian counties. But the potentials of the tourism sector remain untapped as only 0.27 million tourists visited Bangladesh in 2018 and about 0.20 million up to July this year. The number of foreign tourists was about 0.16 million in 2014 which slightly declined in 2015 reaching 0.14 million, before increasing again to 0.20 million in 2016, about 0.26 million in 2017. The special branch (SB) of police recently provided the data to the civil aviation and tourism ministry. The hospitality industry in Bangladesh holds tremendous potentials as Bangladesh economy is set to grow by 8.00 per cent and the country is set to become a member of a middle-income group by 2021, he said. The tourism industry is considered as a major source of foreign currency earnings for countries like India, Malaysia, Thailand, Maldives, Spain, Switzerland, Nepal, UAE, the Maldives, Indonesia, Singapore and many more. Bangladesh a number of attractive tourist places like ancient Buddhist monastery in northern region, the largest sea beach in Cox's Bazar and the largest mangrove forest Sundarbans in Khulna district in the southern part of the country. Bangladesh can boast of posting one of the fastest economic growth in the region surpassing economic giant India and China, at least, in terms of yearly growth. Bangladesh has to transform the structural features of our cities and tourist spots in keeping with the tourism centric structures of some Asian countries like Singapore, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. The focus should also be given to domestic tourism industry as around nine million domestic tourists travel across the country in a year. Bangladesh has the longest sea beach, Cox's Bazaar, the largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, lush green hills and villages, historical monuments, beautiful rivers, lakes and haors and many more attractive things which are to be exploited. With a long term vision, we should give more importance to tourism sector and prepare an innovative plan for developing the Tourism infrastructure and tourist spots having modern amenities. Civil aviation and tourism secretary Mohibul Haque presented the data at a programme at the National Press Club in the city recently. Haque was present at the programme 'Certificate Giving Ceremony: Tourism Media fellowship 2019' as the special guest jointly organised by Aviation and Tourism Journalists Forum (ATJF) and Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB). State minster for civil aviation and tourism Mahbub Ali was present as the chief guest at the programme. A total of 10 journalists won the media fellowship award of BTB. The secretary said that the ministry has taken an initiative to develop accurate statistics of tourists. The SB from now on will provide tourists' arrival information on a regular basis. "We have got the number of pure holidaymakers. But we have asked for the information of foreign guests and business travelers, who are also tourists. We have developed software called Advance Passenger Information System to get tourists data," he said. He added that the system will be effective from mid-2020. The move came against the backdrop of criticism about lack of data from various stakeholders of tourism sector including tour operators, hoteliers, travel agencies, media, academicians and researchers. Data are very much needed to prepare plan and undertake programmes to develop the tourism sector. Mr Mohibul said the ministry could not complete the work of preparing the tourism master plan over the past one decade. But now the work order will be awarded to a firm by the first week of October for preparing the tourism master plan. The ministry will spend around Tk 300 million in this regard, he said. The secretary also said that the organisations could not create necessary facilities for the tourists at the tourist spots. The roads are sometimes so dilapidated that people will fall sick after traveling. "Development of tourism sector is not the work of a single ministry only. We are discussing the issues of infrastructure and security with relevant ministries," he said. State minister Mahbub Ali said that it is not enough to keep the roads usable for attracting tourists, addressing other issues like security are very important. The ministry has been talking to various foreign missions and embassies here to lift the red, orange and yellow alerts which were issued after Holi Artisan attack, he added. State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism M Mahbub Ali underlined the need for proper branding of different tourism products in home and abroad to increase the numbers of both domestic and foreign tourists in the country. He said his ministry will take initiative to make extra facilities for women travelers at all tourist spots in the country. The state minister urged both local and foreign enterprises to invest in the country's tourism sector along with the government. Civil aviation and tourism secretary M Mohibul Haque said the government will open office of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation at all eight divisional headquarters to provide different tourism services. He also said the government has taken a plan to establish tourism training center in the capital to build skill human resources for the hospitality sector. The number of foreign tourists' arrival in Bangladesh increased over the past five years, according to data revealed at a programme recently. The country earned 251.83 million US dollars from the tourism sector during the January-September period of 2018, according to data available from the central bank. The income was 324.28 million US dollars from the tourism sector during the January-December period of 2017 as against 163.21 million in 2016, according to statistics of Bangladesh Bank and Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC). A good number of election observers, journalists, tourists and businessmen are expected to visit Bangladesh before and after the general election, set for December 30. Earnings from the sector may post 5.00-10 per cent growth this year, provided the present trend in growth prevails, sources in the Bangladesh Bank and Bangladesh Tourism Board said. A high official of the Intercontinental Dhaka while talking to The News Today said the hospitality and hotel industry is likely to witness new investment valued at some Taka 10-15 billion in the next couple of years. Bangladesh can mull over replicating success stories of the hospitality and tourism industry of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Maldives, India, Vietnam and Sri Lanka to give a boost to the national economy, said a high official of the Le Meridian Hotel Dhaka. The hospitality industry in Bangladesh holds tremendous potentials as Bangladesh economy is growing by over 7.50 per cent and the country is set to become a member of a middle-income group by 2021, he said. Steady economic growth has contributed a lot to boost the hospitality business in Bangladesh. As demand is increasing, a number of posh five-star hotels are being built in the country's two main cities and these hotels would be ready for the guests within five years. The construction of International hotel chain Marriott, Hilton, Novotel, Sheraton, InterContinental Holiday Inn, Marriott Courtyard and one more Westin hotel's is going on in full scale. Marriott International will be built beside Jamuna future park with an accommodation of 700 rooms, Dhaka Sheraton at Purbachal, Holiday Inn at Tejgaon and Westin at Banani residential area, Pacific Jeans in Chittagong. In the last 2/3 the country has witnessed opening of pose hotels including Five-Star hotels like Radisson Blu Water Hotel at Chittagong, DuSai Resort & Spa in Maulvi Bazar, The Peninsula Chittagong, Amari Dhaka, Long Beach Suites Dhaka, Le Meridien Dhaka, Six Seasons Hotel in Dhaka, Four Points by Sheraton in Dhaka, Rose View Hotel, Hotel Valley Garden and Nazimgarh Garden Resort in Sylhet, Long Beach Hotel at Cox Bazar, Grand Sultan Tea Resort & Golfin at Maulvi Bazar showing that Bangladesh is becoming a success story in the hospitably industry. During this time, The Westin, Radission Blu Water Garden, Amari, Six Season, Four Points Sheraton, Le Meridien, Sarina and Regency have been opened for the guests. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is the global authority on the economic and social contribution of Travel & Tourism said the direct contribution of Travel & Tourism to GDP in Bangladesh in 2015 was BDT407.6bn (2.4% of GDP). Meanwhile, IHG® (InterContinental Hotels Group), one of the world's leading hotel companies, opened InterContinental® Dhaka in partnership with Bangladesh Services Limited recently. A high official of the Weston Hotel opined the country needs international standard hotel management institutions to produce and groom skilled manpower required in the sector. He said the existing institutions and traditional courses offered by universities and some institutions can't produce the trained manpower required in the industry. Shahidus Sadeque, director (business and sales), InterContinental hotel said numbers of hotels are coming which indicate a growth in the hospitality industry. "We have done well in 2010, 2011 and 2012. After that now, we are doing well. If Bangladesh can achieve nearly 7% GDP growth, we need at least 5 to 6 five-star hotels. All those new hotels are a part of tourism industry. More sports, events and international seminar in the coming days, must increase the growth of this industry. Vivek Bhalla, Regional Vice President, SWA, IHG in a press release on Monday commented: "Today is a milestone occasion for us as we announce the opening of InterContinental® Dhaka - a stunning property that will offer the guests a luxurious experience with signature facilities and high standards of service that we have become renowned for. We are confident that the hotel will be a great success and we look forward to welcoming our guests from around the world. The opening also aligns with our strategy to expand our presence across brands, and key cities in the SWA region. BB statistics show that earnings from the country's tourism sector increased nearly 100 percent in the year of 2017. This happened banking on the ongoing reality of political stability and steady economic growth of the country. (To be continued)

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