Mahfuja Mukul: The visa fee of $51 (Tk 5600 in Bangladesh), along with the complicated and uncertain process, is affecting the tourism industry in Bangladesh. So, the government is thinking of opening visa for foreigners to increase the number of tourists in the country. Initially, it is planned to replace their on-arrival visas with e-visas (online visas).
According to the sources of Bangladesh Tourism Board, tourists from different countries of the world want to come to Bangladesh to see the combination of sea and mountains. But they are unable to come due to various obstacles. Many do not find the Bangladesh embassy in their hometown; many do not come to the country due to uncertain on-arrival visas. So, the government is thinking about the issue of e-visa for them.
According to the sources, Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) first proposed 3 options related to visa issue of tourists including e-visa. Later this proposal was given to the Ministry of Home Affairs through the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism. When this issue was discussed in several inter-ministerial meetings, the Ministry of Home Affairs responded positively.
However, how foreign tourists can apply for e-visa to come to Bangladesh has not been finalized yet. The visa issuance process in Bangladesh is under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Who will get e-visa?
According to the proposal submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the citizens of the countries who get an on-arrival visa for entering Bangladesh will get this e-visa facility. They will get visa by applying for e-visa sitting in their own country.
The issue of on-arrival visa is considered by the Ministry of Home Affairs as it is concerned with the security of the country. A circular of the Ministry of Home Affairs dated May 17, 2022 contains the list of countries with on-arrival visas and the prerequisites for obtaining visas.
According to the circular, the citizens of the countries who will get an on-arrival visa in Bangladesh are – USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russian Federation, China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Passport holders of 27 countries including Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Brunei and Schengen. In addition to these countries, where Bangladesh does not have an embassy also get an on-arrival visa. In that case, if the Ministry of Home Affairs approves, the tourists of these countries can get e-visa.
Third party visa coming
BTB’s proposal has mentioned two more types of tourism-friendly visa issue to be issued. One of them is the third-party visa. Bangladesh e-visa can be obtained by applying easily if there are visas of certain countries called third party visa.
According to sources, when this visa program starts, if a tourist has taken a visa for a specific country among the 32 countries, he will get a visa only if he applies for a Bangladesh visa. Among those 32 countries are Australia, Canada, USA, UK, Japan and 27 countries belonging to Schengen. In addition, several inter-ministerial meetings have been held regarding gateway visas.
According to sources from the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, if the third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is fully operational, citizens of different countries can take transit in Dhaka while going to neighboring countries of Bangladesh. Citizens who have transit at Shahjalal International Airport can enter Dhaka city and travel around Dhaka through this gateway visa.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bangladesh Tourism Board Abu Taher Muhammad Jaber said Daily Industry, “I have written a letter to the Security Services Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs and held several meetings in this regard. There is also some progress. But we want the visa process to be easy. Many people have asked us to simplify the visa process, we have conveyed that to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The issue was discussed several times in the inter-ministerial meeting. The Tourism Board and the Ministry also held a meeting with the Special Branch (SB) of Police. We think e-visa has the potential to become faster.
How reasonable $51 visa fee?
Those who are currently coming to Bangladesh will have to pay $51 or Tk 5700 as visa fee. Also, if one wants to go to another country via Bangladesh on a connecting flight, they can get a transit visa for a maximum duration of 72 hours (maximum 3 days). It will also cost $20 to get that transit visa, which is about Tk 2200.
One of the conditions for granting a visa is that visa fees must be paid in dollars, pounds or euros, they must have return plane tickets and hotel bookings.
According to tourism experts, this visa fee is high and unreasonable compared to other tourist-rich countries in South Asia.
SAARC and non-SAARC South Asian countries are far ahead of Bangladesh in terms of tourism, but their tourist visa fees are much lower than Bangladesh.
India tourist visa fee including IVAC (Indian Visa Application Center) charges Tk 840, Bhutan $40 (Tk 4400), Malaysia tourist e-visa fee Tk 4500, Singapore Tk 4000, Thailand fee Tk 3000, Cambodia visa and service charge $36 dollars (Tk 4000).
Among the SAARC countries, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives are providing on-arrival visas to Bangladeshis. Among them Nepal and Maldives have no visa fee. Immigration officers only want to see the tourist’s return air tickets and hotel bookings when issuing visas to Maldives. Nepal has no such formalities. A visa can be obtained by standing at the immigration counter with the passport. Sri Lanka, another SAARC country, has an on-arrival visa fee of $20 (Tk 2,200).
Also, Indonesia charged a visa fee of Tk 12,000 for Bangladeshis after Corona. A lot of tourists from Bangladesh went to Bali island of the country every year. But recently they are giving free sticker visas due to the decline of tourists. If someone applies for a visa through an agency, the agency charges a service charge, but Indonesia does not charge a single visa fee.
We charge $20 or $51 for visa fee from a foreign tourist. But don’t think that a tourist can come to the country and spend at least $1 thousand to $3 thousand. If we can attract tourists from the beginning of their entry into Bangladesh by making visa free, then we will benefit in the long term, the tourism sector will also be active to a large extent.
Suggesting introduction of online visa (e-visa) instead of on-arrival visa process, he said that on-arrival visa is a visa process where no one is sure whether he will get a visa or not. If a person from America comes to Bangladesh and for some reason, he is not granted a visa, can he go back to the country? This is a really uncertain thing. So, government should start online visa immediately. We have our embassy in New York, USA. But if someone comes from Los Angeles or Hawaii, how will he come to Bangladesh? It is difficult for him to go to New York. It is not sure if you will get a visa even if you come directly to Bangladesh. If the online visa is introduced, the tourists can safely get the visa before coming to the country. Currently, countries like Nepal-Sri Lanka have introduced online visa. Even countries like Saudi Arabia have now introduced online visas. This must be done to further enrich the tourism sector of the country.
Meanwhile, Dhaka University Tourism and Hospitality Management Department Chairman Prof. Santosh Kumar Dev said Daily Industry that only if we can ensure the service for tourists, the number of tourists in the country will increase. We have seen that there is a new terminal (Terminal-3) at Shahjalal International Airport. It has increased the space for keeping the plane or the apron, the boarding bridge has increased. In short, the capacity of the airport has increased to a great extent. When a producer arrives at a country’s airport, his first impression of the country is formed by seeing the airport. Due to the modern terminal, we will now have a large number of international tourists in Bangladesh. They will definitely be attracted to the country when they come to see an airport of aesthetic architecture. We want those tourists to get international quality and advanced services at the country’s airport, in that case the tourism potential of Bangladesh will increase even more.
According to Bangladesh Tourism Board, 529,000 tourists entered Bangladesh in 2022, 135 thousand tourists in 2021, 1 lakh 82 thousand tourists in 2020, 6 lakh 21 thousand tourists in 2019, 5 lakh 53 thousand tourists in 2018. Among them, tourists have decreased significantly in 2020 and 2021 due to Corona.
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