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Energising tourism for a Bay of Bengal community

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Dhaka, 2 February, 2021: The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), an organisation of the littoral countries of the bay, envisions to develop a Bay of Bengal community through strengthening economic cooperation and enhancing interaction among the people in the sub-region. Tourism is one of the 14 priority sectors in the BIMSTEC. The sector could play an important role in achieving the initiative’s goal due to its ability to connect people and help in employment generation. The region has the capability of earning around US$ 200 billion from tourism by 2024. Unfortunately, the potential of tourism in the BIMSTEC region remained untapped due to the lack of coordinated action between the member countries. Strengthening cooperation amongst the BIMSTEC member countries will be important for exploiting the opportunities from tourism optimally.

BIMSTEC is a bridge between South and Southeast Asia that connects the geographies of the mountainous ecology of the Himalayas with the marine biodiversity of the bay. The initiative has seven member countries including Nepal, Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand and the countries in the sub-region have strong cultural and civilisational linkages. Given its unique positioning, the region is lucrative for heritage tourism, cultural tourism, leisure tourism, ecotourism and others. Some of the individual countries in the region, like Thailand, has been successful in encashing the opportunities that tourism offers. Thailand is one of the leading tourist destinations globally. BIMSTEC, however, as a region failed to gain popularity as a tourism destination in the international arena.

 

Given its unique positioning, the region is lucrative for heritage tourism, cultural tourism, leisure tourism, ecotourism and others.

BIMSTEC has undertaken some measures to strengthen regional cooperation for promoting tourism. The most prominent has been the BIMSTEC Tourism Ministers roundtable. The tourism ministers from all the member countries meet periodically to explore and discuss potential areas of cooperation. The formulation of a tourism action plan, which was adopted in the first meeting of the tourism Ministers at Kolkata in 2005, is a major success of this mechanism. The plan included setting up the BIMSTEC Tourism Information centre, BIMSTEC Tourism Fund, policies for the conduct of tour packages, etc. The BIMSTEC Tourism centre is operational in New Delhi, India. Another key initiative has been the BIMSTEC Working Group on Tourism. The group consists of a representative of National Tourism Organisations and private stakeholders from all member states. The functions of the working group are — to decide on the programme priorities, the expenditure of the BIMSTEC Tourism Fund, and to follow up on the progress of the action plan. Further, the establishment of the BIMSTEC Network of Tour Operators is an important development. The network, an outcome of the BIMSTEC Senior Officials Meeting held in Kathmandu Nepal in 2017, is an initiative to engage tour operators to discuss issues to promote tourism in the region including circuits tourism cruises, Buddhist and temple circuits and luxury cruises, etc.

The measures adopted are welcoming but could not make much impact. BIMSTEC Secretary, Tenzin Lekphell, in a virtual meeting in November 2020 had expressed regret over the slow implementation of the programme and activities on tourism. He expressed the need for revisiting the BIMSTEC action plan which is 14 years old. Fast-tracking implementation of the agreed programme is a necessity for promoting tourism in the sub-region.

The most prominent has been the BIMSTEC Tourism Ministers roundtable.

Additionally, attention should be drawn towards the increasing attractiveness of the region as a favoured tourist destination, both in the sub-region and internationally. In this respect, there is a necessity to formulate an all-encompassing regional tourism framework because tourism demands the involvement of multiple sectors. The regional framework should not include only the hospitality industry but also transport, finance, digital technology, border management and others within its purview. Enhancing the attractiveness of the BIMSTEC region will depend on the following factors — ease of mobility within the country and across the border, easy conversion of currency, a swift transition of telecommunications networks, acceptability of travel and health insurance across the border. Strengthening of connectivity in its entirety in the sub-region will resolve many of these issues. Promotion of the tourism sector is inherently linked with the connectivity in the sub-region; thus, priority should be given on deepening connectivity in the sub-region to enhance tourism.

Exploiting the benefits will require innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. Tourism could open a new horizon of opportunities for the region.

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Posted by on Feb 2 2021. Filed under Eco-tourism, News at Now. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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