Sun sets at Sundarbans with hopes for positive changes this year

BD yet to harness the vast potentials of aviation and tourism sectors

_By Raquib Siddiqi 01 Jan, 2019 | 544 Views | - +
Dhaka : Another year_ the 2018, has gone and Bangladesh is yet to star-concerted efforts to harness the vast potentials of aviation and tourism. All the four major components of the sectors_ airports, airlines, tourism and hotels_ are yet to get the importance in national economic development, it deserve.

In the absence of concerted efforts, in planned manner with forward-looking vision, the sector has failed to achieve desired growth. The nature of development this far is nothing better than crisis management.

We are closing on half century of independence. But the situation in country's aviation and tourism industries failed to keep pace with the global development. Except significant improvement in hospitality industry and some improvement in tour operation, key elements of the sector remained unchanged.

It is sad to note that aviation has not only failed to keep pace with global development through upgradation of facilities, but also suffered punitive actions for poor and outdated facilities and security systems.

The neglect to update aviation infrastructure and facilities has also standing on the way of fulfilling a dream, to make Bangladesh an aviation hub, by utilising its geographical location between the East and the West.

It is interesting to note that, where private sector could play bigger role without government support_ hospitality and tour operation for example_ some noticeable growth has been achieved.

Importance of aviation

According to a study conducted by Oxford Economics on behalf of the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), air transport drives economic and social progress. It connects people, countries and cultures. It provides access to global markets. It generates trade and tourism. It forges links between developed and developing nations.

In the present day world, air transportation and tourism have assumed great importance as the driver of economic and social progress. In Bangladesh, the importance is yet to be recognised and as such the civil aviation services are still locked in primitive systems. However, with the completion of proposed third terminal at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, things are likely to improve.

The requirements

International standards require that civil aviation authorities responsible for safety oversight be provide with necessary resources, both human and financial, to be able to effectively carry out safety oversight obligations. The government is to ensure that the authority is responsible for the safety oversight of the air operations and that it has the resources appropriate to the size and complexity of civil air operation under the jurisdiction of the state.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) was created in 1984, to function as the regulatory body for all aviation related activities in Bangladesh. It is also the aeronautical service provider and is responsible for safe, expeditious and efficient flow of air traffic within the Flight Information Region (FIR) bounded by the international geographic boundary of Bangladesh. This organisation is the custodian of all airfields and allied facilities including air navigation facilities.

In 1984, there was only one international airport and one national airline in Bangladesh. The number of operating foreign airlines was also only a few. At present, aviation activities are being carried out from 3 international and 5 domestic airports, about 26 airlines are now operating in and out of the country.

In the absence of proper action, The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) is operating with manpower and equipment, sanctioned nearly three decades ago in 1984, when the work load was considerably far less than what it is now.

Downgradation

The neglect resulted in making Bangladesh one of the Signi-ficant Safety Concern (SSC) countries in May 2009 by Inter-national Civil Aviation Organi-saion (ICAO). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of USA on the other hand downgraded Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA), the gateway to Bangladesh by air, to Category-2.

The category is not likely to improve sometimes soon, because Bangladesh is yet to fulfill certain conditions for up gradation of category.

More recently, Australia, UK and Germany banned direct air transportation of cargo from Bangladesh. Australia has relaxed this ban, but ban by UK and Germany still in force.

New organogram

After three decades, an effort was made to re-organise CAAB to equip itself with enough proper manpower_ skilled and un-skilled_ to meet the current requirements as well as the requirements of the next decade.

The proposal to reorganise CAAB has come after three decades and totally changed scenario in the air transportation_ both nationally and internationally. The new organogram is designed to meet the current needs as well as to keep pace with the growing and changing trend.

Unfortunately, however, for reasons unknown the government is dragging its feet instead of hasten the process. The new organogram was submitted in 2010, but it is still waiting for final approval.

Lack of effort

In the past decades, the government wasted opportunities in infusing vigour and drive, to lift the sector from its virtual moribund state. Very little effective and productive measures have been taken to update facilities, modernise and expand HSIA and other airports.

One must agree that the effort of Bangladesh is far below the level of development elsewhere in the world. Lack of direction and priority in planning and execution are to be blamed for the vast gap between desired and actual achievements.

Airports

Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport_ the gateway to Bangladesh by air_ is still traveller's nightmare. The airport, considered by many as the Bangladesh's window to the world, is dirty enough to create highly negative impression about the country to the visitors.

Condition of other airports in the country is simply precarious in respect of passenger handling.

Airlines industry

One of the most significant developments in recent decades is making of national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines, a Public Limited Company (PLC). The airline assumed a new name_ Biman Bangladesh Airlines Limited-. The objective was to make it a dynamic, efficient and profitable airline.

Restructuring of national flag carrier of Bangladesh and equip it with dynamic management, efficient fleet, proper technology and productive manpower was long over due.

Turning Biman into PLC was not enough to run Biman efficiently and profitably. Except improvement of fleet position with induction of eight aircraft-four B777s; two B737s and two B787 Dreamliner_ all the major problems that made the national flag carrier sick_ are still there.

Private airlines of BD

A look at the short and troubled history of the private airlines will show that through privatisation of air transportation in Bangladesh the government has opened up a new horizon, but has not taken necessary follow-up measures to guide and support the nascent industry. For the betterment of aviation industry of the country and success of privatisation policy of the government, some government policy support is urgently required.

Since the opening of airline industry to private sector in 1993, more private airlines have gone out of operation than the number now flying.

In little over a decades, six airlines_ Aero Bengal, Air Parabat, Royal Bengal Airways, Best Air, GMG Airlines and United Airways_ have become history. Only three_ Regent Airways, NOVO Air and US-Bangla Airlines_ are now flying.

Despite lack of government support, these three private airlines have expanded network-both domestic and foreign as well as strengthening fleet with new aircraft.

Neglected tourism

In the present day world, tourism has been recognised as the single largest industry. This multi-dimensional industry has helped a number of developing countries to achieve tremendous economic prosperity.

Tourism, the largest cash generating industry in today's world, in Bangladesh, is yet to receive action-based attention it deserves.

The government adopted national tourism policy, recognised tourism as an industry, but these initiatives have not been backed by solid action. As a result, despite rhetorics, tourism has remained far from even takeoff stage.

In 1972, when Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) was created as the national tourism organisation (NTO), it was not given the regulatory function or authority. The regulatory functions were kept in control of bureaucrats. So, BPC totally failed to regulate and coordinate, as well as to ensure overall management of tourism industry.

Deliberate destruction

It may be recalled that in response to popular demand and to kick-start the proper development of tourism in Bangladesh immediate past caretaker government, initiated a move to create a new NTO to replace BPC, in 2008, a law designed to create a functional and powerful authority to facilitate development of tourism in the country as well as maintain discipline in the industry was drafted. Under the draft law, the proposed NTO was to perform the job of a regulator and facilitator.

Lame NTO

In September 2010, the country got a NTO styled as Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), but not the one, envisaged in the original draft law of 2008. This negated the efforts made to create an independent powerful tourism board and to repeal all the relevant existing laws Opinion of stakeholders, expressed through series of meeting prior to drafting of law was totally ignored and the country got a lame and subservient NTO.

BTB has been given wide responsibilities, but no power, professional capability or expertise to discharge the given responsibility. Lack of manpower as well as fund are the two other important problems, that is troubling BTB.

The NTO has even failed to formulate the much-needed master plan for development of tourism. It is yet to complete the process of selecting consultant for the job.

Bangladesh still unknown

Bangladesh's old-fashioned life style in rural areas, its rivers, its forested hills, the largest mangrove forest and pollution free sea beaches could be_ with imagination and initiative converted into a highly-attractive tourism product.

Unfortunately, the measures to develop tourism in the country have so far remained confined to formulation of policies, rituals and rhetorics.

The neglect to development of tourism and market Bangladesh as an attractive tourism destination, is so naked that campaign to promote Bangladesh during "Visit Bangladesh Year-2016, failed due to lack of necessary fund and very poor planning.

Private sector in tourism

While, neglect to tourism development by the government continues, in recent decades private sector has become active in marketing Bangladesh as a tourist destination.

But in the absence of full government support, the efforts of the private sector could not achieve significant progress.

Growth in hospitality industry

The private sector, however, has been able to make significant contribution in the development of country's hospitality industry.

Not so long ago, the highly capital-intensive hospitality industry of Bangladesh was depended on public sector investment, as the private sector was shy, very shy indeed.

Now, the shy private sector has become history and the hospitality industry of the country is dominated by a vibrant private sector. In the span of little over two decades, private sector has greatly enriched hospitality industry of the country in general and capital Dhaka in particular with hotels of several top global brands.

The year 2018 saw soft opening of Hotel InterContinental Dhaka and with that re-entry of InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) in Bangladesh market.

Apart from upscale hotels in different parts of the country, the private sector has made and making great contribution in enriching the country, in another sector of hospitality industry-the holiday resorts.

Private sector deserves full credit for this significant change for the far better situation, in the hospitality industry.

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