DHAKA, Bangladesh – The tourism sector in Bangladesh should start working towards meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions, abbreviated as MICE, to give the largely untapped market a major boost, industry people said yesterday.
“MICE is one of the most lucrative niches within tourism. Business people who travel to a country to attend a trade show or conference tend to spend far more than other travelers,” said Raquib Siddiqi, a travel writer, while presenting a keynote paper at a seminar.
He spoke at a seminar “MICE Tourism in Bangladesh” at the Novoair Dhaka Travel Mart 2016 at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka yesterday.
Worldwide, at least 50 million trips are taken each year for MICE purposes. The global MICE sector is worth about $30 billion annually, according to Siddiqi.
“Unfortunately in Bangladesh, the MICE market has so far remained almost totally unexplored,” he said, although Bangladesh has workable infrastructure and organising capabilities to hold international conventions, exhibitions and sporting events.
Abdul Muyeed Chowdhury, former managing director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, said foreigners find it difficult to obtain visas to come to Bangladesh compared to many other countries.
“We have to simplify visa processing. In case of MICE, visa requirement could even be removed,” said Chowdhury.
Bangladesh will have to start off now as it might take up to five years to give MICE a good shape.
SAM Showket Hossain, a management consultant, said if service providers can attract corporate bodies in Bangladesh, their MICE sales would double.
He, however, said the rent for convention centres and hotels have to be reduced.
Abdul Matlub Ahmad, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, urged all companies under the tourism and hospitality sector to unite first and come under one umbrella. “You also need to stop looking at the government. The government can’t grow tourism; it is the private sector that has done the job in other countries and the private sector of Bangladesh has to do so.”
Hanif Zakaria, country manager of Etihad Bangladesh, said the Maldives and Sri Lanka have only waters and coconut trees, but they have utilized their resources and been able to attract a huge number of tourists. “On the other hand, we have huge resources, but we have not been able to do the same,” he said.
Kazi Wahidul Alam, editor of the Bangladesh Monitor, said the government and the private sector should start working towards MICE.
Mofizur rahman, managing director of Novoair, said MICE can help Bangladesh grow its tourism sector exponentially.
The four-day international tourism fair began on Friday.
The Bangladesh Monitor has organized the fair for the 13th time, in association with Novoair, the Bangladesh Tourism Board and Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
Rashed Khan Menon, civil aviation and tourism minister, inaugurated the fair, while Syed Ahsan Hossain Kazi, general manager of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, and Bhuban Chandra Biswas, director of Bangladesh Tourism Board, were present on the occasion.
Daljit Singh, adviser to the tourism ministry of Malaysia, and Isra Stapanaseth, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, were also present.
About 50 companies such as national tourism organizations, airlines, tour operators, hotels, resorts, and healthcare service providers from a number of different countries, including Bangladesh, are taking part in the fair.
The Nepal Tourism Board is taking part in the fair to promote a number of destinations of the Himalayan country.
The board has brought in two private companies to sell their travel products, said Shradha Shrestha, senior officer of the Nepal Tourism Board.
About 20,000 Bangladeshis visit Nepal every year, Shrestha said. All participants are offering discounts at the fair.
One of them is Novoair which is offering 15 percent discounts on air tickets in its domestic routes and visa fee waiver in its lone international route Yangon, said Niladri Maharatan, its marketing manager.