Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has said tourism is one of the areas where Islamic countries can work together to explore greater opportunities and potentials.
‘Tourism is the fastest growing sector greatly contributing to economy and employment across the world. Tourism is one of the areas where we have greater opportunities and potentials to work together,’ she said.
The prime minister came up with the remark while inaugurating the 10th session of the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the capital on Tuesday.
‘There are numerous scopes and opportunities around us to work together for the betterment and welfare of the people of Muslim Ummah. In view of the current global scenario, the relationship among the OIC member-states should be based on mutual trust, understanding and cooperation,’ she said.
Civil aviation and tourism minister AKM Shajahan Kamal presided over the function while state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism Faruk Khan, attende the programme as special guests.
OIC secretary general Yousef Bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen attended the function as guest of honour while secretary of the tourism ministry SM Ghulam Farooque delivered the welcome speech.
Chairperson of the 9th session of ICTM and representative of UN World Tourism Organisation also spoke on the occasion.
Sheikh Hasina said, ‘Islamic economy has become a new phenomenon. It continues to grow and be operated by the Muslim community around the world. Because of the universal acceptability of the Islamic products and services, and a large consumer community, it has a huge potential to develop faith-based Islamic products and services.’
‘These products and services have become popular even in the non-Muslim communities. We should work together to preserve and conserve the Islamic culture and heritages,’ she added.
The PM said that travelling and tourism occupied a significant portion with other Islamic products and services. ‘Halal foods, Islamic finance, halal pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, halal tourism are some of the growing sectors of the Islamic economy. In order to develop these sectors, member-states of OIC need enhanced cooperation and partnerships both in public and private sectors,’ she added.
The prime minister said that father of the nation Bangabandhu used to believe in the synergies of mutual cooperation, and being imbued with collective notion and he joined with the OIC in 1974.
‘Since then, Bangladesh is maintaining friendly relations with all OIC member-states and playing significant role to uphold Muslim Solidarity,’ the PM said.
Terming Bangladesh as an ideal place for tourism, the prime minister said, ‘Bangladesh has a lot of resources for developing tourism industry. Cox’s Bazar, the longest sea beach in the world with the longest marine drive, the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world and the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger, and Kuakata, the daughter of the sea, are the great attractions for the tourists.’
‘Ancient historic and archaeological sites, vibrant culture and living heritages are also attractive to international tourists; and above all, the friendly people of Bangladesh and their hospitality will be the memorable experiences for them,’ she said.
Sheikh Hasina said, ‘Soon after the independence, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman realised the potentials to develop tourism as an economic sector and established Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation in 1972.’
As an economic sector, the prime minister said, Bangladesh had given tremendous importance and emphasis on developing tourism with formulating a National Tourism Policy in 2010 to ensure sustainable development of tourism.
‘To implement the policy, Bangladesh Tourism Board was established in 2010. It has been identified as a thrust sector in the Industrial Policy-2010 and the government is providing attractive investment facilities to local and international investors,’ the PM said.
The prime minister said that construction of an international airport in Cox’s Bazar, the tourist capital of Bangladesh, was underway and it would facilitate the tourists to fly directly to Cox’s Bazar from any part of the world.
‘Cox’s Bazar is being connected by rail network also. We are also taking initiatives to expand infrastructural and recreational facilities for the tourists. Besides these, world-class facilities are also being made available in different parts of the country,’ she added.
A 6.15-Kilometer-long bridge over the River Padma would create overland connectivity between Dhaka and southern part of the country, including the Sundarbans, she said.
Pointing out the theme of the conference — Promoting Regional Integration through Tourism — she said, ‘It is imperative to build an adhesive and cohesive relation among the member states in various fields of economy and culture, including tourism to achieve the goal.
Capacity building, knowledge and technology transfer, exchange of expertise, human resources development, occupational skill development, private sector and stakeholders’ integration, strong institutional networking should be the prioritised areas to embark on, she said.
She expressed delight for selecting Bangladesh as the chairperson of the 10th Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers for the next two years saying during the tenure Bangladesh would make the best possible efforts to develop tourism in the OIC member-states through integration and networking of all member countries and institutions.
‘I do believe that Bangladesh will be able to create landmark achievements during its Chairmanship for the next two years,’ she said reaffirming her government’s support and cooperation to the OIC in the field of tourism.
Sheikh Hasina also expressed gratitude to OIC and other international organisations, and the countries of the globe for their great support to the cause of the Rohingya refugees.
Commending the multi-dimensional role of OIC on the Rohingya issue the prime minister said collective voice of the Muslim world, its support and cooperation to the member-states is helping safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world.
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