Mujib Year : Right time to put Biman, BD Tourism on track

- Raquib Siddiqi16 Mar, 2020 | 1710 Views|-+
Dhaka : On the occasion of the birth centenary of the founding leader of the country Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the government of Bangladesh has announced the commemoration of 2020-2021 as the 'Mujib Year'. This year will be celebrated from March 17, 2020 to March 26, 2021.

Two nationally important and notable organisations of the country-Biman and tourism-deserve special attention during the 'Mujib Year', because of the organisations' failure, to live up to the expectation of Father of the Nation.

National flag carrier Bangladesh Biman Corporation and national tourism organisation (now former) Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) were the two handpicked national organisations of Bangabandhu. The personal love of Father of the Nation towards development of aviation and tourism in the country, was demonstrated through creation of these two organisations on priority basis.

As the leader of the war-devastated country, when priorities were different, the father of the nation wasted little time in creation of Biman for aviation and BPC for tourism development.

Despite leading a country devastated by war, Bangabandhu took personal interest in Biman and BPC. He personally approved Balaka logo of Biman which was designed by famous artist Qamrul Hasan.

The logo is so much connected with the memory of the father of the nation, that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina discarded modern livery of Biman which was designed by Boeing, without any hesitation.

The father of the nation also found time to request friendly country former Yugoslavia, to prepare a master plan for development of tourism in the country.

Unfortunately, however, these two favourite organisations of Bangabandhu failed to fulfil his aspiration, due mainly to, not so efficient management over the years.

Biman has miserably failed to be a worthy national flag carrier and BPC not only failed to serve the cause of tourism development, but also lost its national tourism organisation title.

Birth of Biman

Biman Bangladesh Airlines was established on January 4, 1972 as Bangladesh's national airline under the Bangladesh Biman Ordinance through Presidential Order No 126. The airline was initially called Air Bangladesh but was soon changed to its current name. Biman probably was the only airline born without any aircraft.

Birth of BPC (tourism)

Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) was formed about 10 months after Biman, in November 1972 and started its activities in 1973. It has the dual responsibility of development related to tourist infrastructure and products and promotional activities to project the tourism products both inside and outside Bangladesh for a positive image of the country.

Still struggling

Nearly half a century has gone by and added to the age of Biman Bangladesh Airlines (Biman)-the national flag carrier and Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) for tourism development. But the two organisations under the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism are yet to acquire enough organisational strength and abilities to achieve the purpose of their creation.

Management and fleet are the two vital areas of any airline and efficiency of both greatly contributes to success. Because of improper management, inadequate and unreliable fleet were troubling the national flag carrier of the country right from its birth.

It is sad to note that Biman now has most modern, young and adequate fleet, but its international operation has drastically reduced. From 28 international destinations across four continents-Asia, Europe, Africa and North America-Biman is now flying to only 15 international destinations of which 14 in Asia and one in Europe.

Under the circumstances, Biman is urgently needed professional management to run the airline professionally, efficiently and commercially.

Lack of professionalism

Frequent change of CEO, since its establishment in 1972, has deprived Biman of solid and bold leadership and continuity of management. Different management style of different persons, their varied non-commercial background, levels of their efficiency and attitude to the job are also causing harm to the proper management of the airline.

In most of over four decades of existence, the managements that the airline got were far from the efficient managements it needed. Coupled with deficiency in management, un-restricted interference from the top, particularly by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism and not so welcome hold of unions, have made the management of Biman devoid of any vitality. The situation has resulted in weak administration and in-efficient management. There is no sign of any action to lift the management of Biman out of this morass.

Since the establishment of the airline in January 1972, mostly civil and military bureaucrats graced the position of Chief Executive Officer-initially it was called Administrator and later Managing Director. Many of them were posted on the job for a period less than one year.

It is very difficult to understand the policy of the government in this regard. A look at the history of global airline industry will prove that the policy being followed by the government in regard to selection of CEOs and their duration of stay is totally wrong. The policy has only harm the interest of Biman.

Ownership

The airline is wholly owned by the Bangladesh government through the Bangladesh Biman Corporation since its inception. In 1977, Biman was converted into a public sector corporation which afforded Biman limited autonomy, led by a government-appointed board of directors. The authorised share capital was increased to BDT 2 billion in 1987, and Biman was transformed into a public limited company, the largest in Bangladesh, in 2007.

Tourism-Bangladesh Scene

Tourism all over the world is now considered as one of the biggest foreign exchange earners, but, unfortunately, Bangladesh's potential in this field has remained unrecognised and unused.

The flow of tourism around the world is assuming dramatic proportions. Growth of the tourism industry will be unstoppable in the 21st century. Globally, the tourism industry will continue strong growth of about four per cent a year through the first two decades of the next century.

In 1972, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation was created with dual purpose of development of tourism infrastructure and market the country or country's tourism product. But seriously handicapped by organisational problems, it deviated from its two main objectives.

Frequent change at the top of the organisation contributed greatly to the inaction of BPC. The change of CEOs in BPC, is incidentally, more frequent than in Biman. In first 30 years since its birth 26 government officials have so far graced the position of Chairman.

The development of tourism in Bangladesh has this far received nothing but neglect. The sector continues to suffer neglect as tourism put in back seat, in development priority, even creation of a new NTO-the Bangladesh Tourism Board about a decade ago.

Created with no authority and 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 fund without approval of Finance Ministry. It has no manpower to function properly and discharge the responsibilities.

Thus, the first two NTO of the country-BPC and BTB-totally failed to deliver the goods because of the same weakness.

The NTO, responsible for "development of tourism" in the country has now become devoid of any official with tourism background or know-ledge 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 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 market the attractions, is going to gain required professional capability, to do the job and discharge the responsibility soon.

Great potential

Experts are unanimous that Bangladesh has great potential for the development of tourism, but it is now unknown as a tourist destination and has inadequate infrastructure. Under the circumstances, efforts must be directed to the creation of infrastructure, development of products for the tourists and make Bangladesh known as destination in tourist generating countries. So far the measures to develop tourism in the country have remained confined to formulation of policies, rituals and rhetoric. Positive actions to bring noticeable change and real business are missing.

The need

A pragmatic approach with realistic action plan is the need of the hour. Tourism must get priority in development plan. Time is ripe and situation is ideal for taking positive steps by recognising the priority and importance of the development the tourism industry deserves. There is no doubt that we are a poor country. But a number of countries in the world which are not economically better off than we are, spending rather lavishly to achieve two important goals-to improve the image of the country and build infrastructure to attract tourists. This question has never been examined in solid cost-benefit terms. It is time to do so without further delay.

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.

Potentials for Biman and tourism are there and prospect of becoming vibrant sectors excelling in their respective areas are great, but unfortunately nearly five decades of mismanagement has made both Biman and tourism development to suffer and to endure limping existence. There is no sign of change in their situation and possibility of getting out of poor existence.

During the Mujib Year, rectifying the past wrongs and putting Biman and tourism development on right track should be the priority. That will not only save two handpicked organisations of the father of the nation, but also immensely benefit the greater interest of the country.

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