During the running term, the main focus of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) is to help turn the inbound tourism of Bangladesh into a booming business by branding the country all across the world.
Rafeeuzzaman, who has been recently elected as the President of TOAB for a term of two years, said this while talking to The Bangladesh Monitor at the latter’s office recently.
It is needless to say how Bangladesh is benefitted by the outbound operations of TOAB’s members. But TOAB members are now getting more involved with inbound tourism at every destination of the country – with hotels, restaurants, transportation and tour operations, added Rafee.
They are aiming to bring foreign visitors to the country as much as possible, he further stressed. To this purpose, they are also cooperating with the government to implement tourism infrastructure development activities, form master plan and execute it and provide necessary information and suggestion to mark key attractive tourism features of the country and market them to the world.
Tourism is a slow motion industry, claimed Rafee. Nothing in this sector is achieved overnight. The investment one makes in this industry yields result after 10 years. Thus, the enviable success domestic tourism has earned in Bangladesh today comes as a result of the continuous effort made by the tour operators and stakeholders in the past years.
However, Rafee urged that to take inbound tourism to the next level, following measures need to be taken:
Developing infrastructure – The government must prioritise this sector. The private sector cannot build roads or enhance connectivity, only the government can. The private sector – individually or collectively – can open hotel, motel, resort, amusement park, bar, club, pub, restaurant and others to increase the fun activities that tourists seek.
Branding worldwide – The government must take initiatives to brand Bangladesh in foreign print, television and electronic medias. The domestic sector alone is not enough to make the entire tourism industry of Bangladesh grow. It can contribute to the economy and generate employment but cannot help the country earn foreign revenue. This is where inbound tourism come in.
Supporting local trade fairs – Many organisations such as The Bangladesh Monitor, Tourism Bichitra and TOAB arrange trade fairs in the country where they bring foreign tour operators and showcase the country’s tourism products on-spot so that they can promote Bangladesh in their respective countries after going back. Hence, the government should offer subsidy and support these organisations for these fairs and make them a part of its development efforts.
Proper participation in int’l trade fairs – While attending international trade fairs in abroad, the government or private bodies must involve the respective country’s embassy and high commission in its branding efforts. It is also important to carry out more lively initiatives in the venue and make the pavilions more attractive. Arranging pre and post activities such as meetings, presentations and networking sessions with government and private tourism bodies of both host country and participating ones is mandatory as well.
Market research in branding efforts – The tourism board should make a calendar year marking where to go, when to go and what to highlight over there. The promotional activities must be market specific. For instance, in Middle East, halal tourism of Bangladesh is wise to promote. In Korea, branding of Sundarban may attract visitors. The pavilions of the fair are to be decorated accordingly with vibrant and creative designs and posters.
Also, the private sector must have more participation, rather than the government which should play more of a monitoring role, urged Rafee. This will allow the private sector to sell its products more.
Impediments for tourists
In case of taking tourists to hill stations, clearance from the concerned DC is mandatory which is time consuming and hazardous, claimed Rafee. It is the same for Sundarban. These procedures should be made smoother.
Visa, however, is the most troublesome of all, urged Rafee. Tourists from the USA, the UK, Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, China usually get on-arrival visas. For which, tourists face hazards at the airport going through all the procedures.