The sixth Asian Tourism Fair was inaugurated on September 28 at Dhaka, a day after World Tourism Day, to celebrate the occasion and promote sustainable tourism in Bangladesh.
The three-day event was inaugurated by the Minister at the International Convention City, Basundhara (ICCB) where the fair is being held. With 2017 being announced by UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation’) as the year for International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the theme of this year’s Asian Tourism Fair was along the lines of promoting sustainable regional connectivity, considered important for international tourism development and attracting investment in the country.
Following in the success of the previous editions, this year’s edition was also visited by eminent personalities such as Rashed Khan Menon , the Minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism (MoCAT) of Bangladesh; Rima P. Soemarno, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Bangladesh and Vicente Vivencio T. Bandillo, Ambassador of Philippines to Bangladesh. With the sole purpose of promoting tourism and tourism related services across Bangladesh, the fair organised by Mohiuddin Helal, the editor of Parjatan Bichitra, a popular tourism magazine in Bangladesh, witnessed the presence of over 120 tour operators, travel agents, airlines, hotels and service providers from both the private and public sectors of Bangladesh along with stalls of the Republic of Indonesia and Philippines. The event was supported by Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) and Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) under Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, Government of Bangladesh with Biman Bangladesh airlines as the airlines partner and Dhaka Dinner Cruise as the cruise partner.
Helal stated, “The tourism sector of Bangladesh is an untapped one. The fair is acting as an ice breaker and providing impetus to tourism professionals to promote their products and destinations. The fair shall also help promote domestic tourism, apart from attracting foreign tourists to Bangladesh. In order to promote the upcoming tourism season, we also presented exclusive travel packages, on-spot hotel bookings and discount packages from tour operators, travel shops and theme parks, at the fair. ”
Rashed Khan Menon stated, “Despite several hurdles, Bangladesh tourism is moving forward robustly. The government is trying to implement projects related to infrastructure development and tourism branding of the country. This year’s World Tourism Day carries an extra significance for the country’s tourism industry as Bangladesh was recently elected UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) chair for South Asia.” According to official reports, two of the major problems faced by Bangladesh on the tourism front include the lack of infrastructure which includes the under-staffed Bangladesh airport and increased difficulty to get Visa. Menon stated, “We definitely have visa complications as I have received some complaints from different quarters. I have urged the concerned authorities to take necessary steps to solve these complications.” He further added that MoCAT and its concerned authorities are taking precautions to get over the negative image and encourage tourists to visit the country.
Rima P. Soemarno talked about promoting Bangladesh as a destination in Indonesia and stated, “We welcome everyone from Bangladesh to our country. The cultural similarities of Indonesia with Bangladesh and India are striking. There is a lot of scope for a cultural exchange between Indonesia and these two countries. Indonesia is already witnessing a record number of tourists arrivals from India and we expect an increased number of tourist from Bangladesh in the following years.”
A senior official from Bangladesh Tourism Board stated, “We welcomed 20,000 Indians to Bangladesh this year, up until now. We are targeting 50,000 Indian tourists by December 2018.”
According to World Travel and Tourism Council, Bangladesh generated BDT 11.1bn in visitor exports in 2016. In 2017, this is expected to grow by 11.2 pc and the country is expected to attract 147,000 international tourists. The 6th Asian Tourism Fair witnessed the coming together of key players of the tourism industry in Bangladesh to fulfil the objective by means of re-branding the tourism strategies to attract foreign as well as domestic tourists by means of developing infrastructure and coming up with increased platforms to promote Bangladesh as a tourism destination.