Dhaka : Tourism in Bangladesh is still having a rudderless existence. Run by bureaucrats with no experience in tourism and serious dearth of professional manpower, has made Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB)_ the national tourism organisation (NTO), an ineffective entity.
Inadequacy of organisational ability and fund are two main drawbacks of BTB. Funds given to BTB this far, is also highly inadequate-not enough to carry out annual development and marketing activities. And this demonstrates lack of governments interest in developing tourism in the country. Similar to the past, action of the government, in this regard, continues to be limited mostly to lip services.
Lack of fund is hitting very hard the limited and not-so-significant activities, that BTB is undertaking. One such activity is development of toilets and other basic facilities at selected tourist attractions, in some districts, in cooperation with respective district authorities.
BTB cannot carry out yearly marketing campaign as programmed, mainly due to paucity of required fund.
Non-availability of fund is one of the reasons for super flop of the highly publicised, so called “Visit Bangladesh 2016” campaign_ even after unusual extension of the campaign by several months and well into the next year.. Beside inadequate fund, the entire project was handled very unprofessionally.
Since its birth, the only link between tourism professionals and the newly-born NTO was a dozen or so, not so senior officers of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC). They joined BTB on temporary basis. However, finding no career prospect in BTB, not promising, half of these officers have already left BTB.
The half a dozen BPC officers who have remained in BTB are holding junior level position of deputy directors and are only so-called tourism professionals. What better can be expected, under this situation?
At present, nothing in sight to suggest that the organisation, created with responsibility to develop tourism and marketing the attractions, is going to gain required professional capability, to do the job and discharge the responsibility soon.
The activities that BTB has under taken in the past nine years are mostly far from useful to overall development of neglected tourism sector.
No Master Plan yet
The BTB is so powerless and ineffective that in nine years since its formation in 2010, the NTO has this far failed to appoint consultant to draw the most essential developmental document_ the Master Plan for tourism development.
It is learnt, one of the reasons for this unwelcome delay is the lack of understanding of its importance and delay in granting approval by the Ministry of Finance.
In different countries, the government, in its leadership role, has always been known to spearhead and pioneer tourism development, by laying the infrastructural foundation, providing the legislative, physical, fiscal, social and environmental framework.
Unlike other countries, in Bangladesh, government has this far neglected these responsibilities. So, the country needed a NTO, powerful and independent enough to end the phase of neglect.
It is interesting to note that in most of the countries in the region where tourism has achieved tremendous development in recent years, have only one authority to handle all aspects of the industry.
Albeit tourism is yet to get proper government attention, Bangladesh now has three public sector organizations on tourism with over lapping functions and all totally controlled by the bureaucrats. Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC)-the hither to NTO and a Tourism cell under the ministry, for regulatory function, continue to exist despite creation of BTB.
It may be recalled that, to kick start its proper development, there is long standing demand for the creation of powerful and independent tourism authority as National Tourism Organization (NTO). But the question of tourism development in the country suffered a great loss when an appropriate proposal was killed and a lame inefficient Tourism Board was created.
A 17-member governing body has been created for administration and running of BTB. Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism is the Chairman. From public sector representatives of ministries and departments of finance; local government; law, justice and parliamentary affairs; cultural affairs; Chittagong hill tract affairs, home; environment and forest; foreign, land, chairman of BPC and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
The five private sector members of the board-- all nominated by the government-are representatives of travel agents; tour operators; hotel, resort, restaurant organizations; experienced teacher or researcher on tourism related subject and a female representative experienced on tourism.
The task before the BTB is fairly tough as there is no track record to follow. In this situation composition of the board and selection of CEO are certainly matters of paramount importance. But lack of power and independence of BTB as well as absence of tourism professionals in the governing body, posing serious doubt about effectiveness of this organization.
Examining the task before the newly created BTB and its power and capability, it appears to be nothing but making mockery of tourism development. It appears like kind of a joke, as BTB has been given wide responsibilities, but no power, professional capability or expertise to discharge the responsibility. None of the 17 members of the board has any experience in tourism administration and professional capability of guiding development of tourism.
Even, the CEOs who are drawn from administrative service had no experience in tourism. Albeit, under the present circumstances, tourism professional with adequate experience, leadership quality, imagination and initiative is needed as the CEO. But there is no effort to suggest that the BTB is going seek help of tourism professional soon.
But, according to a BTB insider, the organization is so powerless and bureaucratic hierarchy is no dominant that no outsider will be able to work under existent condition.
According to the provisions of the concerned law, BTB is no better than a government department and needs prior approval from government to discharge major responsibilities. It is also fully dependent on government for fund.
Like other government body, BTB will also be required to submit yearly budget to the government specifying its financial requirements to get allocation of fund.
This is not the kind of tourism authority that the country needed. One must not forget that there are two important tasks for development of tourism in Bangladesh. Along with the development of tourism infrastructure and facilities, Bangladesh must made concerted efforts to improve its current international image. The current image is so poor that it is not conducive to attract visitors from tourist generating countries.