Bangladesh eyes on a new door to open up for holidaymakers offering its Islamic heritage as tourism ministers of OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) member state are set to gather in Dhaka this week to discuss various issues regarding Islamic tourism.
"As the first ever host of any OIC tourism ministers gathering, we consider it as an opportunity to promote our tourism potential and heritages to the Muslim world," Chief Executive Officer of Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) Dr Nasir Uddin told today.
The 10th Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM) will take place from February 5 to 7 at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel here with the theme - 'Promoting Regional Integration through Tourism'.
"We are ready to welcome tourism ministers or their representatives from 57 OIC member countries at the meeting to showcase our Islamic heritage in front of the leaders of the Muslim world," Dr Nasir said.
He said the OIC understands Bangladesh has huge potential in the tourism sector and encouraged Bangladesh to the event and to discuss ways of cooperation among member states, reports BSS.
The conference will discuss core issues including development of Islamic tourism, progress on tourism infrastructure projects, OIC tourism fairs and OIC City of Tourism Award (2019 and 2020).
Referring to the tradition of declaring two cities of OIC member countries as "Capital of Islamic Tourism" at every meeting of ICTM, the BTB chief said the name of Dhaka would be proposed this time to select as capital of Islamic tourism either for 2019 or 2020.
The last 9th session declared Madina and the Iranian Tabriz city as the capitals of Islamic tourism for 2017 and 2018 respectively.
"I am highly hopeful that Dhaka, the city of mosque that hosts numbers of Indo-Islamic architecture will be selected. If so, we will make a yearlong plan for Dhaka to attract more tourists from across the Muslim world to visit our Islamic heritage," Dr Nasir said.
The BTB is also taking preparation to propose for being the host to organize the 5th OIC Tourism Fair here in 2020.
Apart from the core agenda of ICTM - development and promotion of Islamic culture and heritage - the 10th session will also review progress of the tourism projects in different countries those are being implemented in line with joint cooperation on Islamic tourism.
"We (Bangladesh) will also place some new projects related to Islamic tourism to implement in Bangladesh," BTB CEO said.
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.
"We would like to exploit every possible opportunity to attract more tourists in our country. We had held an international Buddhist tourism circuit conference in Dhaka earlier to get more Buddhists tourists, now we have the opportunity to showcase our Islamic heritage in front of the world to attract more and more Muslim tourists specially from middle east and far east," Dr Nasir said.
The ICTM is being held in different OIC member countries in every two years. Its 9th session was held in Niamey, the capital of Niger in 2015. As per the tradition, the chairmanship of the conference will be transferred to Bangladesh tourism minister from his Niger counterpart (current chair of ICTM) for next two years at the opening ceremony of the upcoming 10th ICTM session.
A recent OIC study revealed that in 2015 the estimated number of Muslim tourists were 117 million, representing close to 10 percent of the entire tourism industry. This number is forecasted to grow to 168 million visitors by 2020 and 11 percent of the market segment with a market value projected to exceed US Dollar 200 billion.