A.K.M. Rafiqul Islam
Executive Officer, Marketing & PR
Bangladesh Tourism Board
Bangladesh is mostly an unexplored tourist destination in the world. That it is a country of life-time experience for the visitors is less known to the large international community. But it seems very much optimistic when huge complements poured by foreign visitors when they come with sort of pre-occupations thoughts but leave with unbelievable memories and experiences.
It is undeniable that the country becomes the headlines of the world news because of some unenthusiastic incidents and natural disasters. Because of regular visit of such phomenon, a mixed perception shaped itself for the country which is confronting to marketing and promotional initiatives. In addition fewer moves towards image management of the country, the situation faced not so much of changes at the outset. But in the last five to seven years, changes have begun to turn around.
Bangladesh is remaining many steps behind from south Asian Countries which have made remarkable progress in the field of tourism development. By the time the neighboring countries have made some progress on the way, Bangladesh did not start even. Thus the country started very late to promote tourism as the economic sector to contribute to the national economy.
Soon after the liberation in 1971, Bangladesh established a public tourism organization with the dual responsibility of promotion and commercial operations of tourist installations and services. The organization set up tourist accommodation and few other facilities specially in the tourist attractions and the urbane area for domestic and international tourists. The entity acted the role of the pioneer to encourage private sector to invest in the tourist industry development also. The job is modestly done by this organization, but not enough to cope with the pace of tourism development and marketing opportunities.
Besides this, the organization is responsible for playing the dual role, it was suffering for insufficient financial support to carry out any campaign to promote Bangladesh as a tourist destination. With the course of time, tourism is claiming to be an economic sector of preference and the government started to pay much interest to promote tourism as an economic sector of the country also. At last in 2010 Bangladesh Tourism Board has been established as the National Tourism Organization (NTO) which is acting as the Destination Marketing and Management Organization in the public sector also.
Bangladesh has put its step on the following strategies for marketing and promotion of the country
Branding & Positioning of Destination
Destination Competitive advantage
Multi-channel promotional campaign
Bangladesh – Branding & positioning as the destination
It is earlier said that an image has automatically developed for Bangladesh over the years which is, in fact, one of the major issues for a place branding also. Even though the experts suggest the chronological sequences of brand building as the success factor, we have given a slightly deviation in that academic format of image management. In 2008 Bangladesh assumed an Identity for the international visitors; Beautiful Bangladesh with a visual indicating the rise of a nation. After its official launching , it was a little bit argued that the beauty is mostly subjective for the individuals. To some critics, the way Bangladesh is perceived does not match the illustration of the branding. But it overwhelms the critics when the beauty is defined for Bangladesh adding a new theme to the call – Beautiful Bangladesh – the School of Life.
It was the first ever initiative to build a positive perspective of the nation to explore which is acclaimed by the international communities. Every country is hospitable, but of course at some cost. The people of Bangladesh adorn hospitality as they adorn their religion. They fall in irony because of nature, but come out successfully showing how the resilience is to be taught. Now this has been established when in the Lonely Planet’s index of most value destination of the world, Bangladesh toped the rank in 2008 and 2011.
It is a challenge for a country like Bangladesh which has the little financial capacity to carry out cross-road promotional campaign all around the world. Therefore the country is taking the strategy to reach the niche segments of the markets, which seems potential for the country. Currently emphasis rolled on unpaid promotion in the digital and social media. Paid promotional campaign in small scale has just kicked off in some portals specially booking and travel networking sites like Trip Advisor, E-Bookers.com, Sina.com, wayn.com and PR initiative in the Travel Daily News International. Even though the TV Campaign is quite ambisous for a country like Bangladesh, but small scale focused campaign will start very quickly to aware the international community about Bangladesh.
Using Social Media Platform
Social media is now the strongest tool for marketing and promotional activities irrespective of types of products and services. The strategies which will guide the initial phases of the campaign are sharing experiences and story-telling about the country; how they feel and what they have found here. This has just started few days ago and we recorded a very good feedback from the travelers as well as suggestions and choices.
Bangladesh is an upcoming destination for MICE. But we demonstrated our strength organizing one of the greatest shows on the earth ICC World Cup Cricket-2011 and its inaugural ceremony. Through this events we found a segments who are mostly cricket-lovers showing big interest to visit Bangladesh. There are many international events held in Bangladesh where tourism specially business tourist arrivals increase significantly.
ICC World T20- a big tournament will be organized in 2014 in Bangladesh. This is going to be the largest participation of the cricket playing nations of the world- 24 national teams including women teams of the Test Playing nations participate in this big tournament. The objective of holding such big sport tournament is to give a wakeup call to the international community who are mostly unaware of the strength of the country. A large number of foreign spectators have had their bookings already to witness the tournament and the country.
DMO in the private sector
Bangladesh Tourism Board encourages private sector initiatives for destination marketing and management. As many as more than hundred of international trade and tourism events take place in Bangladesh. Some of the events are pretty big where more than five thousands business visitors come at a time. The trend is very optimistic as the economy booms up and the new business opportunities are created, which resulted in a good number of skilled destination management companies started operation and deliver standard level of services. Most of the trade events and exhibitions are of private sector leadership in the competitive way, which is stimulating the growth of the supply sides.
International collaboration and networking both public and private sector is very significant in promoting a destination which on the other hand provides the recognition of the host authority for a destination. This helps to build confidence and better feedback from the audience and planners. We gradually improve the condition through the increased involvement in the regional and global forum. Bangladesh has become the member of PATA as the destination category, elected the Vice-Chair for Regional Commission for South Asia and the increased collaboration with UNWTO would certainly help to open up the opportunities for the destination marketers of the world.