Md Mohibul Haque, Secretary, says at pre-budget discussion
Fresh move taken to promote tourism products
-A Monitor Report16 May, 2019 | 2533 Views|-+
Md Mohibul Haque
Dhaka : The Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism has taken a fresh move to recast and promote tourism products of Bangladesh.
Md Mohibul Haque, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, said this while speaking at a pre-budget discussion on civil aviation and tourism sector held at National Press Club in the capital on May 6.
Md Mohibul Haque said, the ministry is conducting a tourism feasibility study on the Sundarbans, with experts of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), which was in the last stage.
The Secretary said a number of spots had been selected near the largest mangrove forest in the world. Now the government will acquire land, develop it, arrange for safety, security, electricity and water at those places.
After drawing up a Master Plan, the government will hand it over to private stakeholders who would set up establishments as per plan and conduct business.
“You (stakeholders) can invest after paying a nominal royalty fee_ build hotels, motels, cottages, children's play area there as per the plan.”
He said, all these will be done without disturbing the ecological balance of the mangrove forest. From these spots outside the forest area, tourists can go inside the Sundarbans for visits.
Md Mohibul Haque said, the same will be done for the three hill districts. “We are conducting studies. The government will not be doing business here, it will be you (stakeholders).”
The government has acquired land near Cox's Bazar airport for an exclusive tourist zone. The government will be developing the place. After preparing a plan, it will hand those over to private entrepreneurs.
Talking about the three tourism establishments in Cox's Bazar including Upal, Shaibal, Probal, he said these were cyclone shelters handed over to the Ministry of Tourism and were run by BPC so far. The ministry has taken up projects at these places, pulling these down to construct new structures.
The ministry is making arrangements at Cox's Bazar for entertainment of tourists at night. Big facilities including halls will be constructed where hill people of the area will perform daily. “We will provide the money paid by the tourist to these artists. They will survive (earn a livelihood) and tourism will survive,” he said. “We are taking this initiative which was not taken earlier,” he added.
Lauding private stakeholders for the tourism growth in the country, he said Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) was formed in 2010 to promote tourism products of the country. And Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) is a pure commercial organisation.
He said BDT 34 crore allocation for BTB is no allocation at all. There is human resource crisis in BTB. “We are trying to increase their manpower. They have written to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism and we have written to the Ministry of Public Administration.”
“To increase the manpower, we need the assent of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Public Administration,” he said.
The Secretary said, it is not true that money was not spent on tourism and aviation sectors. BDT 101 crore has been spent on tourism establishments in the last 10 years, while BDT 12,000 for civil aviation sector.
Md Mohibul Haque said work on the Third Terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is expected to start in July or August this year, overcoming legal complexities. The whole process including the ministry's evaluation is in the last phase.
Cox's Bazar airport will be turned into an international one. The runway at the airport will be extended to 12,000 feet. The Prime Minister wants it to be an international airport and a hub, he said.
He said, “When the airport was constructed during the Second World War the airport area was 135 acres, now it is 912 acres.”
Md Mohibul Haque said, “if you go to Cox's Bazar airport now you will observe that a temporary international terminal is being built at a cost of BDT 275 crore. This will be used later as a domestic terminal.”
In Sylhet, a terminal is being constructed and the number of boarding bridges at Osmany International Airport is being increased at a cost of BDT 2400 crore.
Int'l flights from Sylhet
He said, when a Boeing 777 flies with full passenger load, it weighs about 3,500 tonnes. The present runway at Sylhet airport does not have the capability now to handle aircraft with such load. But the airport will able to handle such aircraft in October or November this year. Any type of aircraft would then be able to operate to any point in the world from Sylhet, he hoped.
The Secretary said Saidpur will be made an international airport. Land is being acquired there now. In a similar manner we have undertaken a study on Barishal airport as we plan to develop it.
He said, besides these, domestic terminals are being built at Jashore and Saidpur airports. Work is also going on at HSIA domestic terminal. In Rajshahi, we'll be constructing a domestic terminal.
So you will be witnessing many changes in the country's civil aviation arena.
He said price of tickets was a demand and supply question. When there is demand, prices go up and when it is less, prices come down. It is the universal rule.
“You will observe all the (domestic) airlines doubling or trebling their fare during the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays,” he said.
The Secretary said Biman will receive two more Boeing 787s - one in July and another in September and two more aircraft would come on lease. “When they join Biman's fleet, we'll try to increase flights to the Middle East. We have opened new routes to Madinah and Guangzhou and on May 13 Biman will resume flights to New Delhi. If we observe that the flights are going well, then we would increase the number of direct flights to the Indian capital.”
Not a single Taka
Denying claims that the national carrier runs of funds provided by the government, he said it was totally untrue. The government does not allocate a single Taka for Biman. The airline runs on its own financing. The new aircraft are being brought in are being financed by foreign banks. The government is only providing the sovereign guarantee.
Washrooms at destinations
He said, many have complained about washrooms at destinations. They are trying to resolve this through Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB). Money has already been allocated for this work at Bagerhat Shait Gombuj Mosque, the mazar of Khan Jahan Ali, residence of Michael Madhusudan Dutt in Jashore, Lalon's Akhra in Kushtia, Rabindranath Tagore's Kuthi-bari. “Our aim is that in whatever manner the tourists reach these destinations, they can avail washrooms and have safe water to drink.”
In more remote destinations they will try to set up and run roadside washrooms in cooperation with union or upazila parishads.
As to development of roads to tourism destinations, the Secretary said, “We have identified some roads and are trying to get the improvements done through LGED as these are village roads.”
Visa on arrival
He denied that there is only one desk for tourists entitled to visa on arrival. “We will see to it that they do not face any hassle,” he said.
The number of countries will increase. During his stint at the Ministry of Home Affairs, quite a number of agreements had been signed, he pointed out.
The Secretary said, “You (stakeholders) do the package tours. The ministry will always extend its helping hand. You bring in tourists from abroad. We will extend all types of assistance.”
The Secretary said licence fee does not fall within the purview of the ministry. Rather it is a subject matter of city corporations.
He admitted that there were accommodation facilities at Jaflong, Sylhet, but nobody wants to go there because of the sound created by the stone crushing machines.
About tax free vehicles for use of tourists, he said, it was not feasible, as the facility is likely to be misused.
He said, “We do not take global terrorism threat lightly. We have tried to ensure 100 per cent security in the entities under the control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, like Pan Pacific Sonargaon and Inter-Continental Dhaka and, of course the airports.”
Everyone has to undergo security checks at airports. Even when he passes through airport checkpoints, he submits himself to scanning keeping his watch, cellphones and other things in the tray. He does it as he feels that if he does not go through the security process, then another person will not do so. “When the State Minister and I go, we go through scanners at airports.”
Sometimes the State Minister travels as an ordinary person, travel without any protocol, as he wants to observe the security system himself.
Many misbehave with airport security (AvSec) personnel, but they do not tolerate it. “We offloaded a passenger at Rajshahi Airport recently. We told him he has to go through the security process, otherwise he will not be able to board the aircraft.”
He said, “Biman Holidays was being recast. You will see changes within the next two months.”
Biman was now a profitable organisation. The airline sold BDT 143 crore worth tickets in April this year which was more than the corresponding month last year.
He admitted weaknesses in tourism marketing and promised to look into participation in tourism fairs abroad and also into the arrangement of bringing in foreign journalists to Bangladesh on familiarisation trips.
The Secretary concluded his remarks by calling for united efforts, by the government and stakeholders to take tourism and civil aviation forward in the days ahead.