Although Dhaka was declared the ‘City of Tourism’ for 2019 by the OIC, no visible steps have been taken in line with the declaration to showcase the rich Muslim heritage of the 400-year old city before the global community, especially Muslim tourists.
Dhaka was chosen the ‘City of Tourism for 2019’ by tourism ministers of the member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at the closing session of the 10th Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM) held in Dhaka in February 2018.The declaration was expected to generate huge interest in Bangladesh among tourists from the Muslim world. However, since the declaration, only a celebration show was organised with laser show and fireworks in Hatirjheel in July this year.
Dhaka has many historic Islamic sites, such as ancient mosques, holy shrines of preachers of Islam, and great architectural structures of the Mughals, but there not been any visible plans to showcase these tourist attractions even after the OIC declaration.
Experts said the declaration could be an effective tool to boost Halal Tourism, one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global travel industry, in Bangladesh.
“Nine months into the declaration, there has not been any visible initiatives to showcase what Bangladesh has to offer to the growing number of Muslim tourists from around the world,” they said.
Tourism and Hospitality expert Dr. Akbaruddin Ahmad, also a former president of Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) and director of FBCCI, said Dhaka is blessed with diverse Islamic heritage and archaeological sites worth visiting by tourists from all over the world, especially the Muslims.
“The OIC is willing to showcase Dhaka as a tourism city, but Bangladesh is failing to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.TOAB director Taufiq Rahman said the OIC declaration was a great opportunity for Bangladesh to turn Dhaka into one of the top destinations for Muslim tourists through branding and promotion.
Almost nine months have gone but there is no visible outcome of the declaration except for a few promotional materials, he added.
The Conference also adopted the Dhaka Declaration to preserve and promote Islamic culture and heritage of Bangladesh.
In line with the implementation of the Declaration, various programmes were planned for the commemoration of Dhaka as OIC City of Tourism 2019, including renovation projects and allocation of airtime in the OIC member states to showcase Dhaka.
According to the Department of Archaeology, Dhaka has more than a thousand archaeological Islamic heritage sites. Being the city of mosques, Dhaka is surrounded by hundreds of mosques with from the modern and Mughal era.
The government had developed the old mosques and some heritage sites before OIC’s Dhaka declaration, but the tourism departments have not taken and major initiatives to promote those tourist attractions before the Muslim world.
With a market potential of more than 50 Muslim countries and no less than 1.6 billion Muslims, tremendous opportunities await those who are willing to meet the demands for Muslim-friendly tourism products and services. Countries like Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Malaysia, Bahrain, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia are showcasing their Islamic tourism brand.
A top official of BTB seeking anonymity said though there are no visible efforts in line with the declaration, Bangladesh has sent a project proposal to OIC headquarters seeking support for conservation and development of Islamic heritage sites in Bangladesh.