Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday stressed the need for taking prompt measures to make Islamic tourism as a global business brand considering its huge potential since it witnesses 8.3 percent annual growth. “The value of Islamic tourism market will increase to $243 billion by 2021 with an annual 8.3 percent growth. So, all-out efforts and roadmap aims at promoting Islamic tourism as a global business brand is urgently required,” she said while inaugurating the two-day official celebration of” Dhaka OIC City of Tourism 2019 in a city hotel, reports BSS.
The prime minister has also proposed allocating a separate tourist spot for the OIC member states in Cox’s Bazar. Calling upon all the OIC member states to work together for flourishing Islamic tourism, she said, “In realising our targets (to be a developed and prosperous nation), flourish of tourism sector can play an important role. In this case, Islamic tourism is the best possible area where we have the opportunity and potential to work together.”
Bangladesh has been playing a significant role in upholding solidarity and unity among the Muslims following Islamic values of fraternity, justice, cohesion and inclusion as a whole since Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman joined the second OIC conference in 1974, the premier said. Referring to a report of Thomson-Reuters that forecasted tremendous potential of Islamic tourism, the premier said, “Muslim populations globally spent a total of $151 billion on travel in 2015 (excluding Hajj and Umrah). Of the amount, OIC member states contributed to $109 billion.”
By 2020, the world’s Muslim population will be 26 percent of the entire world population while the number of Muslim tourists will rise to 180 million from 156 million within that year, she mentioned. Urging the OIC member states to encourage their private sector entities in tourism infrastructure and development projects, the prime minister said, “I hope appropriate steps will be taken in order to promote intra-OIC tourism through easing visa for investment promotion, branding, standardisation and capacity building.”
In this context, she said Islamic Economy has already flourished as a new phenomenon. Because of acceptability of the Islamic products as well as services among a large number of consumers, there is a huge potentiality of flourish of Islamic products and services across the globe. Halal foods, Islamic finance, halal pharmaceuticals as well as cosmetics and halal tourism are among the growing sectors of Islamic economy, she said, adding enhanced cooperation and partnerships of both public and private sectors of the OIC member states are needed for flourishing these sectors.
The prime minister, however, hoped that the grand celebration of “Dhaka OIC City of Tourism 2019” will open a new door for cooperation of sustainable tourism development, acceleration of intra-OIC tourism and cooperation among member states which will ultimately contribute towards economic development of OIC member states.
Spelling out Bangladesh’s potential in tourism sector Sheikh Hasina said, “You will be happy to know that Bangladesh has the diversified tourism attractions. The longest unbroken sea beach in Cox’s Bazar, UNESCO world heritage site and the largest mangrove forest the Sundarbans, ancient and the modern archaeological, and Islamic sites etc are the major tourist attractions in Bangladesh.”
In addition, she said, “We all know that tourism is the fastest growing sector greatly contributing to the generation of foreign exchange and employment across the world.”
“Utilising the huge potential of tourism in the country, we are trying to create employment and income opportunities for the people,” she continued. Foreign Minister Dr A K Abdul Momen, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism M Mahbub Ali, Chairman on parliamentary standing committee of the Civil Aviation Ministry R.A.M. Obaidul Muktadir Chowdhury, the ministry secretary M Muhibul Haque, and OIC Assistant Secretary General Musa Kulaklikaya, also spoke on the occasion.
An audio-video presentation on Dhaka was also screened on the occasion. The prime minister underscored the need for developing tourism on naval route as Bangladesh is a riverine country, saying, “We can make the tourism more attractive on naval route.” “Simultaneously, we can develop tourism on the naval routes of those countries which are surrounded by the Bay of Bengal,” she observed.
Noting that her government wants to develop the tourism sector up to the international level, Sheikh Hasina said, “If the OIC member countries want, we can develop a separate tourist spot in the Cox’s Bazar beach for them as well as for the Muslim tourists.” The premier also said they want to develop another tourist spot in Cox’s Bazar for the western countries for further expansion of the tourism.
As part of the initiative to develop Cox’s Bazar as a tourist hub, the government has a plan to develop the Cox’s Bazar Airport as international one and build a International Football Stadium, she said, adding that an international cricket stadium has already been built there. Describing Cox’s Bazar airport as an attractive destination for re-fueling, she said, adding that one will get astonished seeing the beauty of the world’s longest sea beach stretching 80 miles as well as the marine drive along the beach and take decision to stay here for some days to enjoy the panoramic beauty of the place if they come here for re-fueling purpose.
“We can make our country more attractive as tourist spot as there are many old architectural sites and Islamic establishments across the country for which, the government has been building a communication network throughout the country,” she also said. The government has established eco-park and safari park to attract the tourism, she added.
Describing Dhaka as a wonderful tourist spot, the premier said, “Dhaka is the oldest city stands besides the river Buriganga which is also surrounded by some other rivers Turag, Balu and Shitalakhya.” “The city has an ancient heritage having Ahsan Manzil, Lalbagh Fort, Dhakkeshwari Temple, Baitul Mukarram, museum, Suhrawardy Udyan, Armenian Church, pagoda, Hussaini Dalan, Rose Garden, where the Bangladesh Awami League was born, and many other old heritages,” she added.
In this context, she also said the Jamdani sari of Dhaka is world famous and moreover tehari and bakarkhani are the most delicious foods, she said. The premier said the most important is thing that Biswa Ijtema, the second highest gathering after the holy Hajj, is held every year in Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands people take part. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has provided the place for holding the Biswa Ijtema, she continued.