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BBC-Putting the Bay of Bengal on th

Subject: BBC-Putting the Bay of Bengal on the tourist map

Saturday, October 31, 1998 Published at 17:40 GMT

World: South Asia

Putting the Bay of Bengal on the tourist map

Travel plea: Make Bay of Bengal countries easier for
tourists  By Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

Tourism ministers and officials from the five countries on the rim of the
Bay of Bengal ended  a two-day conference in
Calcutta on Saturday with a call to promote the region as a viable tourist
destination in its own right.

The tourism specialists called on the  governments of Bangladesh, India,
Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand, a grouping known
as Bimstec, to contribute to this process.

Laxmi Puri, who managed the deliberations for the two days, talked said:
"The Bimstec component of the Asian highway can
become the basis of a viable new tourism product for joint marketing," and
added that "it is regrettable that we do not have
direct shipping links among all Bimstec countries".

The conference adopted an action plan to attract tourists from other
regions, and to promote inter-regional tourism within the
five country grouping.

The action plan recommends: the easing of visa formalities  the
strengthening of road, rail, sea and air links within the
Bimstec region  the development of information systems easily accessible to
tourists   neutralising political difficulties
between the member countries of Bimstec, and the improvement of the tourism
infrastructure within the five countries.

Delegates spoke of strong historical ties between the five countries and
said that could prove to be the cementing force
between them.

But they recognised the easing of visa formalities would prove to be the
major stumbling block, particularly between India on
the one hand and Bangladesh and Burma on the other.