Bangladesh needs to take steps to grab a slice of the fast-growing halal tourism pie, travel experts said.
Halal tourism is a subcategory of tourism that is geared towards Muslim families who abide by rules of Islam.
Some examples of halal tourism include the availability of places of worships in shopping centres and major tourism facilities, hotels that serve halal food and have separate swimming pools and spa facilities for men and women.
In recent times, this sub-sector of tourism is on the rise on the back of the growing worldwide Muslim population, the increasing purchasing power of population of Muslim countries and rising tendency to consume foods and use services that adhere to Islamic principles.
Spending by Muslim tourists exceeded $138 billion in 2015 and in 2020 it is expected to be upwards of $180 billion, according to Kazi Wahidul Alam, editor of Bangladesh Monitor, an aviation and tourism magazine.
At present, Bangladesh does not even register as a tourist destination in Muslim travellers’ minds when they make holiday plans, said Shamnoon Muheb Chowdhury, director of goBDgo, a travel agency.
The first step to changing that is branding Bangladesh as a Muslim country, he said yesterday at a seminar titled “Emergence of Halal tourism – How Bangladesh can benefit”. The seminar took place on the sidelines of the US-Bangla Airlines Dhaka Travel Mart 2017.
“We need to define which countries will be our target market and why Muslims from Middle Eastern countries will come to Bangladesh,” he added.
Halal tourism is a good opportunity for Bangladesh to promote its tourism sector as it already has everything that Muslim travellers want like halal food, Islamic heritage, mosques, etc., said Syed Ghulam Qadir, managing director of Wonder Ways.
Malaysia and Thailand are doing very well in Halal tourism, said Taufiq Rahman, chief executive of Journey Plus, a tour operator.
While Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country Thailand is not, so the latter’s success in this field is surprising and encouraging.
“It was easy for Malaysia as it was already a hit tourist destination and a Muslim-majority nation. But for Bangladesh it will be difficult as it gets very few tourists in the first place,” he added.
The recent rise in militancy and political unrest of 2015 are hindering the promotion of tourism in Bangladesh, said Masud Hossain, managing director of Bengal Tours Limited.
“At this moment, it will be very challenging for Bangladesh to introduce a new brand of tourism as Muslims like to travel in a peaceful environment,” he added.
Originally published on www.thedailystar.net