By: Zain al Tauqi

MUSCAT: As Oman Air launched its direct flights to Bangladesh earlier this week, travel industry insiders are anticipating increased interest in the destination.

Nadeem Ulde, head of sales and leisure enterprise, Bahwan Travel Agencies, explained how off-the-beaten-path destinations typically gain popularity.

“Bangladesh as a tourist destination is an untapped market. Direct flights between the two countries will help boost bilateral relations and will open a gateway. Once there are direct flights, the national tourism officers of both countries usually make presentations, and travel agents step in.”

According to Sudeep Joseph, travel manager, Travel Point, shorter flying time is also an advantage.

“Having direct flights makes selling a destination easier. The short flying time to Dhaka is also an advantage, but I think the Bangladesh Tourism Board could market the country more aggressively. Also, Oman Air Holidays has a big role to play as it will probably offer packages in the future and this will directly increase the destination’s popularity.”

The convenience of having a direct flight can’t be underestimated, said an executive from National Travel and Tourism.

“While holidaymakers from Oman still prefer the Far East and Europe, the percentage of bookings to South Asia could go up if the destinations are well marketed. Countries offering visa on arrival, like Bangladesh, are at an advantage. Goa in India, for example has seen an increase in popularity since Oman Air launched direct flights to the place. I anticipate the same for Dhaka, though pricing could be a factor. Fares to countries from which there are a lot of expatriates in Oman, like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, tend to go up during holiday,” he said.

A K M Rabiul Islam, counsellor, Bangladesh Embassy in Muscat feels the number of visitors to Bangladesh is set to increase. “There has been an upward trend in the number of Omani as well as non-Omani visitors to Bangladesh.

“Citizens of Oman, who intend to visit Bangladesh on official, business, investment or tourism purposes, are issued a single-entry visa on arrival after examination of relevant papers by immigration officials.

“This is valid for a maximum period of 30 days. Visas can also be obtained from the embassy here in Muscat.”