Bangladeshi Premier Sheikh Hasina on Thursday highlighted the need to promote tourist traffic within the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which constitutes a collective population of over 1.8 billion.
Pegging the value of tourist traffic between these countries at a staggering $243 billion by 2021, with an annual growth rate of 8.3%, she urged governments to ease visa restrictions and build infrastructures in order to take advantage of the tourist economy.
“Islamic tourism [travel within the OIC member states] is a possible sector, where all of us have an opportunity to work together in achieving our targets,” she said, while inaugurating a two day conference to promote the capital Dhaka as OIC city of tourism.
As many as 10 OIC member states, including Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Turkey, account for 36% of the tourist traffic from Muslim nations, a Singapore-based Mastercard-Crescent rating agency reported recently.
Stressing the need to promote Islamic tourism as a global business brand, Hasina urged the OIC to encourage the private sector to invest in tourism and develop infrastructure and projects, either individually or in joint venture, with the respective governments.
“The Muslim population globally spent a total sum of $151 billion on travel in 2015 [excluding pilgrimages]. Of the amount, OIC member states contributed $109 billion,” the state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news agency quoted Hasina as saying.
Besides calling for easing visa restrictions to promote tourist traffic, she also emphasized the need for branding and standardization of tourist destinations. She urged all OIC member countries to solve issues among themselves though bilateral means.
She said Muslims will constitute 26% of the total world population by 2020, adding that over the next year the numbers of Muslim tourists could grow from 156 million to 180 million.