Too weak, not in a position to function effectively

BTB continues to suffer neglect as tourism lags behind in development priority

_By Raquib Siddiqi 16 Feb, 2019 | 313 Views | - +
Dhaka : The development of tourism in Bangladesh_ once declared by the government as priority sector_ has this far received nothing but neglect. The sector continues to suffer neglect as tourism has been put in back seat, in development priority.

At the same time the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), has lost its capability further, following recent purging of some key officials.

Created with no authority and lacking independence_ BTB, the new national tourist organisation (NTO) is too weak and not in a position to function effectively. It has no authority over concerned stakeholders of the industry. It cannot use funds without approval of Ministry of Finance. It has no manpower to function properly and discharge the responsibilities.

The government cannot deny responsibility for BTB's incapability and existing sorry state of affairs. In nearly a decade, the BTB_ the national tourism organisation (NTO), failed to get the authority_ proper professional manpower, operational freedom and fund to do the job properly.

Wrong policy

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 of guiding development of tourism.

In regard to appointment of CEO and other senior positions, the government is continuing its wrong policy. BPC was crowned with more than two dozen chairmen, in the first 42 years. In little over eight years, BTB already had more than half a dozen CEOs. Jahangir Hussain, the immediate past CEO_ who was moved out few weeks ago_ lasted less than a year.

Tourism is a highly specialised sector where bureaucrats' novices need some time to understand the trade. This learning process varies from person to person_ some quicker, some very slow. And by the time one learns or earns some experience and expertise about tourism, his or her time for departure on transfer or promotion comes. So they go and with them, go waste the wealth of experience and expertise and time and money spent to get those.

The purpose of creating BTB was to promote tourism in the country, but it appears to be another Parjatan Corporation - which failed to perform as NTO - as the government has decided to appoint bureaucrats to the top posts.

According to the Tourism Board Act, a government officer or a tourism expert will be appointed as the Chief Exe-cutive Officer (CEO). However, the government has selected the CEOs from among government officials, sidestepping professionals. And that too for very short tenure.

Not for tourism

The practice of frequent change of NTO's top position, reflect lack of seriousness about the development of tourism in the country.

Created in 2010, BTB was never made capable to function properly and discharge the responsibility. The fact that BTB was never equipped with authority and its own qualified manpower and its operation is no better than a government department. This has raised the question about the purpose of its very creation.

A look at the history of BTB's creation and lack of proper action in the following years, to make it a capable organisation, will show that at least development of tourism was never the intention.

It may be recalled that, to kick start its proper development; there was long standing demand for the creation of a powerful and independent tourism authority as National Tourism Organisation (NTO).

But the question of tourism development in the country suffered a great loss when an appropriate proposal was killed and an incapable, inefficient Tourism Board was created. This is not the kind of NTO that people wanted.

The need

To efficiently complete the required tasks, similar to other countries, Bangladesh needed a high-powered independent tourism authority to guide tourism development in the country_ as the facilitator and promoter of tourism.

Under the circumstances, Bangladesh needed a NTO which is powerful and efficient enough to do the following jobs: (a) stimulate and promote tourism to and within Bangladesh; (b) promote and market, internationally and locally, Bangladesh as a tourist destination; (c) coordinate any marketing or promotion activity in relation to tourism conducted by any government department or governmental or non-governmental agencies or organisations; and (d) make recommendations to the government as to the methods, measures and programmes to be adopted to facilitate and stimulate the development and promotion of the tourism industry and to implement or assist in the implementation of the methods, measures and programmes in question.

To perform the functions effectively, the NTO must have power and authority: (1) to carry on all activities relating to tourism which are commercial or industrial in nature and activities of research and training; (2) to secure local and overseas publicity for the promotion of Bangladesh as a tourist destination; (3) to promote and co-ordinate the activities which are connected or related to its functions by any government department, or governmental or non-governmental agency or organisation; (4) to secure information, programmes and reports in respect of its tourism promotion and marketing activities from any government department, or governmental or non-governmental agency or organisation ; (5) to enter into such negotiations and arrangements as consider necessary for the performance of its functions; and (6) to impose fees or any other charges it deems fit for giving effect to any of its functions or powers.

The governing body

It may be recalled here that a 17-member governing body has been created for administration and running of BTB. Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism is the Chairman. 12 of the 17-member governing body are from joint secretary level officers representing various ministries and departments like 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) of BTB.

The five private sector members of the board_ all nominated by the government_ are representatives of travel agents; tour operators; hotel, resort, restaurant organisations; experienced teacher or researcher on tourism related subject and a female representative experienced on tourism.

The composition of governing body of BTB will show tourism knowledgeable private sector members are vastly outnumbered by joint secretaries. No one will expect these public sector members to voice opposing opinions that of senior members including the chairman.

Lack of authority and expertise as well as low representation of tourism professionals in the BTB governing body, made the body ineffective.

Professional link

Since its birth, the only link between tourism professional and the new NTO was a dozen or so, not so senior officers of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC). They joined BTB on temporary basis. Half of these officers left BTB few years ago.

The half a dozen BPC officers who remained in BTB, holding junior level position of deputy directors and were only so-called tourism professionals. What better can be expected, under this situation?

However, that thin professional link has also been lost now. Most recently, these officials - who were holding key positions - have been sent back to their parent organisation_ BPC. Now, BTB is devoid of any tourism professional. It is because, the very small number of officer, that this far recruited by BTB, are yet to acquire professional capability.

The NTO, responsible for "development of tourism" in the country has now become devoid of any official with tourism background or knowledgeable about the sector.

With no tourism professional available in Bangladesh, the void is likely to be filled by officials from various government departments on deputation. Of course, void in BTB positions is going to be filled up, but it will be of no help to get the job done.

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.

Government leadership

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.

Judging from responsibility, capability and achievement since its creation in 2010, the travel trade community in the country is questioning the justification of "useless" organisation like BTB as national tourism organisation (NTO).

It may be noted that tourism is a highly specialised sector and in Bangladesh, there is tremendous dearth of person with knowledge about tourism development. So, in 2010, BTB started its journey with about dozen knowledgeable officials borrowed from BPC. No proper effort to build its own manpower and trained them to acquire expertise, was never taken.

Now, for the purpose of development of tourism sincerely, effort should be directed to create a "Real NTO" - similar to the one, killed as draft proposal - to efficiently shoulder the responsibility of developing infrastructure and marketing country's attractions.

The BTB, it is learnt, has recently submitted a proposal to the ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism for creation of 261 posts_ directors, deputy directors, assistant directors and others_ for the organisation for its proper functioning. Let us see what happens.

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