Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday urged the Muslim nations to take steps to expand halal tourism to supplement growing Islamic economy.
Addressing the ministers of Islamic countries, she also underlined the need for enhanced cooperation and public and private partnership to develop halal foods, Islamic finance, and halal pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
"There is a huge potential for developing faith-based Islamic products and services. These products and services have become popular even in non-Muslim communities," UNB quoted Hasina as saying.
The prime minister made the call at the inaugural ceremony of the three-day 10th session of the Islamic Conference of Tourism Ministers (ICTM) of OIC at Sonargaon Hotel in the capital.
She said Islamic economy continues to grow and be operated by the Muslim community around the world due to the universal acceptability of Islamic products and services.
Halal is what is permissible for consumption in traditional Islamic law.
Stressing the importance of expanding halal tourism, she said her government is taking initiatives to increase infrastructural and recreational facilities in the country for tourists.
"We're taking initiatives to expand infrastructural and recreational facilities for tourists. Besides, world-class facilities are also being made available in different parts of the country in the private sector," she said.
The prime minister said the government has been implementing many mega projects, including a 6.15-km Padma bridge, to develop infrastructures and connectivity.
The Padma Bridge will create overland connectivity between Dhaka and southern parts of the country, including the Sundarbans, she said.
Saying that construction of an international airport in Cox's Bazar, the tourist capital of Bangladesh, is underway, she added that it will facilitate the tourists to fly directly to Cox's Bazar from any part of the world. "Cox's Bazar is being connected by rail network also."
Hasina said tourism is the fastest growing sector greatly contributing to the generation of foreign exchange and employment across the world. "... the conference bears a great significance for future cooperation and coordination on a broader spectrum in the uplift of the tourism industry of the OIC member states."
Mentioning that the refugee crisis has become very acute across the globe creating endless sufferings and distresses to the displaced people, she said Bangladesh has been facing the crisis for years with the latest influx of forcibly displaced Rohingyas from Myanmar.
"Out of the sense of humanity, we've provided temporary shelter to the Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh to escape atrocities in their homeland," the prime minister said.
She extended thanks and gratitude to the OIC and other international organisations and countries for their great support to Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue and providing assistance for the displaced people. "In this respect, the multi-dimensional role of the OIC is commendable."
Hasina saidthe relationship among the OIC member states should be based on mutual trust, understanding and cooperation in the view of the current global scenario.
She said the exchange of knowledge and expertise in various fields can help everyone improve their level of standard."I think tourism is one of the areas where we have greater opportunities and potentials to work together."
The prime minister said her government has given tremendous importance to and emphasis on developing tourism in Bangladesh as an economic sector.
She said Bangladesh has lots of resources for developing tourism industry, including the world's longest unbroken beach with the longestmarine drive, Cox's Bazar, the world largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, which is also home to Bengal tigers, the daughter of the sea, Kuakata, and hundreds of green tea-gardens in the north-eastern part of the country.
The prime minister inaugurated the 10th ICTM, being held with the theme of 'Promoting Regional Integration through Tourism'.
Bangladesh was selected as the chairperson of the 10th ICTM for the next two years. The chairpersonship was handed to civil aviation and tourism minister AKM Shajahan Kamal at the inaugural function. The Niger tourism minister was the chairperson of the 9th ICTM.
OIC secretary general Yousef Al-Othaimeen, state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on civil aviation and tourism ministry Muhammad Faruk Khan, among others, addressed the function held with Shajahan Kamal in the chair.