Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are considering launching a cruise service between the countries to boost the regional tourism.
Regarding the issue, a virtual meeting was held recently by the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) with participation of the concerned stakeholders, said sources at the BTB.
BTB Chief Executive Officer Dr Jabed Ahmed told The Business Standard, "We have memoranda of understanding (MoU) on tourism with a number of countries. Now, we are going to sign an MoU regarding tourism with Sri Lanka too. "
"One of the provisions in the agreement would be to start a cruise line as part of the blue economy. We may include India in the cruise line considering the business viability," he said.
"If we can start ocean cruises in the region, other businesspersons will come forward to launch cruises in Bangladesh," he added.
On 1 November, Sri Lankan newspaper Daily Mirror reported that during a meeting at the Ministry of Tourism in Colombo, Bangladesh High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Tareq Md Ariful Islam and Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga decided to take steps to launch cruise service between the two countries.
During Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to Bangladesh earlier this year, it was decided to sign the MoU between the two countries.
Tareq Md Ariful Islam said the MoU on tourism has been drafted and is expected to be signed soon.
Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said more attention should be paid to uplift the tourism industry in the South Asian region through regional platforms such as Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.
He also said a joint tourism action plan should be implemented in these countries through a conference of tourism ministers of South Asian countries.
Bangladesh High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Tareq Md Ariful Islam pointed out that the assistance of those involved in the tourism industry in Sri Lanka is essential for the revival of the tourism industry in Bangladesh and requested the Sri Lankan tourism minister to assist in that endeavour.
Prasanna Ranatunga said Sri Lanka is ready to come forward in this regard any time.
Journey Plus, a Bangladeshi tour operator, arranged the first ever trip by an international cruise liner in Bangladesh in 2017, and then again in 2019.
Journey Plus Chief Executive Tawfiq Rahman said, "We faced many difficulties to include Bangladesh on the world's cruise map. We did not get sufficient cooperation from the government. Then, we did not take any further initiative to arrange such a tour after 2019."
Journey Plus arranged the 'Silversea Discover Expeditions' to bring 162 foreign tourists from 17 countries to Maheshkhali Island and the Sundarbans in 2017. They were on the Colombo to Kolkata Asia Expedition Cruise.
Journey Plus had to try for several years to bring Silversea, a luxury cruise line headquartered in Monaco, to this region and to open new routes that would include Bangladesh.