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ILO’s tourism expert on Bangladesh: Use tourism for economic development

Wolfgang Weinz, ILO’s tourism expert, shares his thoughts on Bangladesh

Bangladesh needs to present its tourist offerings more attractively to make the most of the growing number of tourists visiting the least developed countries, a top expert said.

“It is not enough to tell what you have. You have to show them,” said Wolfgang Weinz, senior technical specialist for hotels, catering and tourism at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“Bangladesh has potential in tourism. It is a promising region,” he told The Daily Star in an interview on Thursday.
Weinz was in the capital last week to speak at the “Second Asian Tourism Fair” that kicked off at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre on Friday, where an ILO toolkit on the tourism sector was launched.

The toolkit is part of the ILO’s wider efforts to promote decent work in the tourism industry and contribute to poverty reduction.
With tourism increasingly being recognised as a major source of economic growth in developing countries, Weinz said its potential to create gainful employment and alleviate poverty should not be underestimated.
But Bangladesh needs to identify its tourist attractions to harness the potential of this sector.
In Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh has the world’s longest natural sandy sea beach, while in Sundarbans the world’s largest mangrove forests, both of which, he feels, need to be marketed as such – to the world.

“Size, however, tells you nothing. Quality is important. No one will do a marathon on the beach. So what will people do there?”
“I know some countries which have very small beaches, but they are excellently promoted and hence attract tourists.”
Weinz said Bangladesh needs a package for tourism at both the national and local levels to leverage its potential.
Bangladesh’s major problem, he thinks, lies in the infrastructure.
“If you want to get tourists you will have to make your infrastructure attractive. When tourists arrive in Dhaka they want to go to the countryside and be close to the nature. If you need five hours to get out of the city they will be discouraged.”
“Someone told me that they needed two and a half hours to get out of the capital city. People come here to relax so they need to reach their destinations easily and comfortably.”

Bangladesh also needs to have low-cost motels and cottages in the tourist destinations and countryside, according to Weinz, to attract tourists.
“It is fine that there are big hotels in the country and they have international standards. The problem is not every tourist wants to go and stay in five star hotels.”
“We have developed this toolkit for small and medium sized guest houses, hotels and motels. There, you need to ensure hygiene and service standards.”

“You have to look at all these factors. If a tourist comes back from a good holiday he will share it with three people. But if the holiday was bad he will share it with 50 people.”
Since the quality of service is crucial for the sector, it is essential that the waiters, housekeepers and cooks undergo skills development.
He said tourism is a labour-intensive sector and it is a direct interface between tourists and workers.

“It is not enough equipping them [the workers] with skills; you have to treat them properly as well.”
Weinz said the toolkit is also looking to improve the communication and negotiation skills of the sector.
“You need a clear and constructive social dialogue between workers and management at national level, and the government needs to make the workplace decent. Otherwise, things will fall part and services will not be good.”

During his stay he visited the National Institute of Tourism, and although he was impressed by the institute’s officials and students, he feels the infrastructure needs to be upgraded to modern standards.
“To have the best facilities and better trained people, you need to make some investment. It is up to the government to think about this. We can give advice.”

He said a country cannot have a proper tourism industry without an integrated approach.
“You have to get different stakeholders and areas together. Here, the education ministry is as important as the labour, tourism, communications and home ministries.”

He advised the government not to go for mass tourism: “The country needs quality tourism, which means, you will not have so many tourists but people with enough money.”
Tourist arrivals in least developed countries (LDCs), where Bangladesh is categorised, have tripled between 1998 and 2008, with an average growth rate of 13 percent, according to ILO.
Revenues, too, increased from $1 billion to $5.3 billion in that time.

Of the 49 LDCs, 30 have identified tourism as a priority sector for their economy.
He said there are some potential donors who would be interested to invest in the sector.
“Securing donors’ money, however, will depend upon the initiative of each country.”
“It is now up to the government to make the most out of it. We can help and assist the government and the social partners.”

Written by Md Fazlur Rahman fazlur.rahman@thedailystar.net
Published in Daily Star September 2012, go to original article here .

This article is uploaded by Majbritt Magnussen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’

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