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Tourism fair kicks off in Dhaka

Ruhul Amin Hawlader, civil aviation and tourism minister, inaugurates the third Bangladesh International Tourism Fair at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka yesterday. Photo: Star

Ruhul Amin Hawlader, civil aviation and tourism minister, inaugurates the third Bangladesh International Tourism Fair at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka yesterday. Photo: Star

A three-day international tourism fair began in the capital yesterday (28 November 2013) with high hopes of giving the sector hit hard by repeated shutdowns and road blockades a much-needed boost.

Organised by the Bangladesh Foundation for Tourism Development and Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, the third Bangladesh International Tourism Fair has attracted travel operators from 15 countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bangladesh.

The fair comes at a time when the country’s tourism sector has hit its lowest point in recent years, with the ride expected to get worse in the coming days.

The inbound tours are down by at least 50 percent compared to two years ago, according to Salauddin Ahmed, managing director of Travel Planners and Logistics.

Many tourists drop by Bangladesh during their travels to South or East Asia, but when they hear of the political turbulence, that too with no signs of improvement, they cancel their trips.

Travel Planners and Logistics has been a big casualty of such cancellations, having to refund $55,000 recently to foreign tourist.

Ahmed said some tourists, however, are braving the political turbulence and visiting the country.
His company is handling a group of 14 tourists from France, who are visiting for two weeks.

“My partner in France has earnestly requested me to make their journey a success, even if it meant I have to spend extra money. I have had to do that to save the reputation of the company.???

However, it is not all doom and gloom for travel agencies. Many are opting to escape the unsafe conditions at home, with travel agencies reporting spikes as high as 20 percent in their bookings for outbound tours.

“It however means that we are losing foreign currency. It will add very little to our GDP,??? said one operator.
Dilip Kumar Das, a manager of Asian Holidays, however disagreed that the outbound tours have gone up due to instability in the country.

“The current crisis, which has been going on for a long time, has also hit the operators who run outbound tours. People are scared. If there is no peace nobody wants to set out for travels, whether within the country or outside of the country.???

Meanwhile, Ariful Alam, a sales manager of Jamuna Resort Ltd, painted a pretty gloomy picture of the business condition. Previously, the resort’s bookings in November amounted to at least Tk 2 crore, but this year it has come to only Tk 26 lakh. Their monthly expenditure, on the other hand, stands at Tk 50 lakh.

Das added: “November used to be busiest period for the sector in the past, but this year we are not seeing any rush now.???
HM Hakim Ali, chief executive of Hotel Agrabad, said the occupancy rate of his hotel in Chittagong came down to a meagre 30 percent since the trouble has begun.

“The picture is the same in all hotels across the country. Only time will be able to heal the wound,??? said Ali, also the president of Bangladesh International Hotel Association.

Ali’s hotel even had made security arrangements to transport tourists from the hotel from the airport and vice versa and even publicised it. Still, the occupancy rates have not gone up.

Asked about the timing of the fair, Rezaul Karim, executive director of Bangladesh Foundation for Tourism Development, said this type of fairs mainly promote networking between service providers and tourists.

“All companies try to offer the most competitive package. Many are offering huge discounts, which the tourists will be able to avail throughout the year,??? he said.

The fair was organised in collaboration with the civil aviation and tourism ministry, Bangladesh Tourism Board, the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Bangladesh Inbound Tour operators Association and Bangladesh International Hotel Association.

Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Ruhul Amin Hawlader inaugurated the fair in presence of Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Khurshed Alam Chowdhury, FBCCI President Kazi Akram Uddin Ahmed and ambassadors of Indonesia, Myanmar, the Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.
The fair will be open to visitors today and tomorrow.

– http://www.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/tourism-fair-kicks-off-amid-gloomy-outlook/

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