South Asian Countries to Develop Subregional Tourism Focused on Cultural And Natural Heritage

News Release | 9 December 2008

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Five South Asian countries will deepen their cooperation to promote their unique tourism market of culture and nature-based destinations.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $2 million grant to promote sustained dialogue among the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka to develop an updated subregional tourism plan, streamline cross-border tourist movements, formulate and implement a marketing campaign, and build the capacities to protect and manage the subregional heritage and tourism growth.

South Asia is one of the poorest regions of the world. However, it has rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage areas as well as major Buddhist sites, making it a Buddhist heartland.

The ADB grant will be sourced from the Regional Cooperation and Integration Fund under ADB's Regional Cooperation and Integration Financing Partnership Facility. The five governments will contribute $400,000 to cover the costs of counterpart staff, accommodation and facilities to be used during the two-year period to complete the project.

"The region has tremendous potential for developing tourism that can be used to expand economic opportunities, generate employment, and raise incomes, particularly for the subregion's poor," said Gülfer Cezayirli, Principal Urban Development Specialist at ADB's South Asia Department.

The objective of an integrated tourism plan is to link the complementary tourism attractions found in each country that otherwise might not be sufficient to attract a high level of tourist arrivals if promoted as individual destinations.

The technical assistance will complement a forthcoming ADB-supported investment project that will support high-priority investments along the selected destinations in the subregion.

Together with the investment project, the technical assistance will enhance the positioning of the subregion in both intraregional and international markets as one of the world's leading destinations for spiritual-, nature-, and culture-based tourism. It is expected that by the end of the technical assistance and the project, tourism arrivals in the subregion will have increased by 8% every year, and the average length of stay of tourists will have extended by one to four days.