Published in The Financial Express on Friday, 13 May 2016
Raise budget allocation, allow duty-free import of vehicles
Tour operators urge govt
Tour operators on Thursday demanded a number of measures, including increasing budgetary allocation, allowing duty-free import of tourist vehicles, providing easy-term bank loan, and ensuring security at the tourist spots, to help flourish the country’s tourism sector.
They also focused on launching adequate promotional activities, including in local and international airports as well as in foreign mission offices, for upholding the country’s image.
The demands were placed at a pre-budget discussion on ‘Civil Aviation and Tourism’ at National Press Club in the city.
Aviation and Tourism Journalists’ Forum of Bangladesh (ATJFB) and Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (TOAB) organized the discussion in cooperation with Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB).
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon spoke at the programme as the chief guest, while State Minister for Finance M A Mannan was the special guest. ATJFB president Nadira Kiron moderated the discussion.
TOAB director Masud Hossain said a good number of foreigners are not coming to Bangladesh for security concerns.
“Any killing incident in the country directly affects local tourism industry, and we cannot attain the foreign tourists’ confidence,” TOAB director Toufiq Rahman said.
He alleged that though the government has announced 2016 as the tourism year, there is hardly any tangible work to achieve the goal.
He stressed on diversification and promotion of tourism products as well as ensuring safety of tourists.
Mr Hossain said the government has declared the tourism sector as an industry, but they are not getting any benefits.
The TOAB leader demanded providing duty-free import facility for tourist vehicles, including bus and ship, for the remittance-earning tourism operators.
“There is lack of sufficient standard vehicles to carry tourists across the country, while the tour operators cannot import quality cars due to high cost. The government can provide duty-free vehicles for tourism purposes only in favour of the foreign currency-earning tour operators,” he opined.
TOAB first vice president Rafiuzzaman recommended setting up tourism desks in Bangladeshi high commissions abroad to promote local tourism.
ATAB secretary general Aslam Khan demanded tax waiver for domestic airlines, development of airports, and removal of double taxation.
“The government should allocate Tk 5.0 billion in the next budget for the tourism sector,” ATAB finance secretary Abdul Hamid said.
He also demanded introducing special helicopter service for foreign tourists as well as ensuring security at the tourist spots across the country.
Aviation Operators Association of Bangladesh EC Member A T M Nazrul Islam recommended effective use of airports, which have been unused, like – Tejgaon and Comilla.
He also sought policy support for operating helicopters.
“Compared to other countries Bangladesh is lagging behind in promoting tourism,” said additional research director of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Khondaker Golam Moazzem.
The government is taking various steps for increasing bilateral trade with many countries, which will also open the scopes for tourism, he said.
He also recommended a separate ministry for the sector.
Both the ministers assured the leaders of TOAB and ATAB of addressing their problems in consultation with the ministries concerned.