Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tourism is expected to have a new lease of life

Dhaka : Tourism industry in Bangladesh seems to have attracted the kind of attention it deserves. Res-ponding to the long-felt need, the government has already updated the National Touri-sm Policy and a powerful Natio-nal Tourism Organisation (NTO) to re-place the moribund Bangla-desh Parjatan Corporation is on the way.

The government has already updated the National Tourism Policy and drafted lawto create a powerful NTO as regulator and facilitator. It is titled Bangladesh Parjatan Board (BPB).

Creation of new NTO was initiated by the immediate past caretaker government. A draft law was finalised. But that draft has been modified by the present government to provide the NTO the regulatory function..

The concerned law--Bangladesh Parjatan Board Act, 2009 is expected to be placed before the Jatiya Sangsad during the current budget session. This was disclosed by GM Qader, Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism while exchanging views about the draft law with some of the stakeholders at Hotel Abakash, on May 27.

"The government in principle agreed to formulate a time-befitting Bangladesh Parjatan Board and we want to enact such a law with the opinions of all stakeholders, so that it will be acceptable to all and help promote the tourism sector," he said.

Following the enactment of Bangladesh Parjatan Board Act, 2009, The Sarais Act, 1867 (Act No. XXII of 1967), Bangladesh Parjatan Corpo-ration Order, 1972 (PO No. 143 of 1972), The Bangladesh Travel Agencies (Registration and Control) Ordinance, 1977 (XLVIII of 1977) and The Bangladesh Hotels and Res-taurants Ordinance, 1982 (Ordinance No. LII of 1982) will stand null and void.

The law will pave the way for creation of Bangladesh Parjatan Board (BPB) with the objective for overall improvement of tourism industry and services, management, expansion and uphold the standard.

Updating of National Tourism Policy and the formation of Bangladesh Parjatan Board clearly demonstrate sincere desire of the government not only to put the tourism industry on the right track, but also to take it further and earn for the country its share of the global tourism boom.

The policy
The policy has identified immediate needs for the development of multi-sector industry like tourism. It has recognized that for the development of the industry, there is need to have long term national plan, investments, mobilisation of financial and technical assistance, facilitate infra-structural development, preservation of historical and archaeological sites and attractions, identification and preservation of potential sites, development of art and culture, relaxation of rules concerning travel of foreign nationals, preservation of forest and bio-diversity, improvement of airport facilities for passengers, marketing and publicity abroad and coordination of river cruise.

In addition to these, the policy also recognised the need for different accommodation for tourists such as hotel, motel, resort, cottage, boatel, aptel, farm house, wayside hotel, highway inn, tourist home, time sharing, home-stay etc and creation of food and entertainment activities. Also creation of favourable atmosphere and necessary affective measures for package tours.

The policy said that the government would remain as felicitator and help private sector to play active role in the development of tourism. All efforts should be made to ensure safety and security of tourists. Special importance should be given to the development of domestic tourism. Effective initiative should be taken for manpower development at public and private levels. Close coordination should be established among all tourism stakeholders.

The tourism policy also recognised and identified urgent need of coordination between various corporations, departments and ministries for proper tourism development in the country. In particular, the coordination between the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism and the ministries of environment and forest; cultural affairs; communication; land; Chittagong hill tracts affairs; information; water transport; foreign affairs; education; home affairs; water resources; local government, rural development and cooperatives; youth and other important government departments and all private sector investors is most important.

The policy has underscored the urgent need for allocation of government fund and effective coordination among the ministries concerned for wide spread development of tourism in the country.

NTC & Cabinet Committee
Headed by the Prime Minister there will be a National Tourism Council (NTC). Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism will be vice-president and 14 other ministers as members. Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism will be the Member-Secretary of the Council. The council is not new. It was created when National Tourism Policy was first adopted in 1992. In its 17-year life the last council met only once. So, the update policy apart from various improvements, has a provision that the NTC will meet at least every six month.

The council will approve on principle, plans concerning national and regional tourism development. Enhance image of Bangladesh though publicity and marketing campaigns at national and international levels. Decide on principal, the improvement of communication to important tourist spots. Decide on principal on imposition of tourism related law and other administrative measures and steps.

Measures to provide financial facility to private sector. Review recommendations of Tourism Advisory Committee and provide approval when necessary.

The decision of the council will the obligatory and all concerned ministries will implement those decisions.

According to the policy, from time to time, the government will form cabinet committee and decide its agenda. Moreover, to coordinate and implement the tourism policy, there will be a 22-member inter-ministerial committee. Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism will be convener of the cabinet committee, 16 Secretaries of the government, Chairman, National Board of Revenue, DG, NGO Bureau, Chairman, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, Managing Director, Bangladesh Biman Limited will be Members while Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism will be Member Secretary.

To maintain and develop local tourist resources, at divisional level Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet and Barisal City Coporations will be given specific responsibility for creating entertainment for the people. In phases local governments will get this responsibility. Formed with Deputy Commissioners as Convenors, District Tourism Development Committees will be made effective and given responsibility to maintain and develop local tourist attractions.

The updated National Tourism Policy appears to have made sincere effort to identify core problems concerning development of tourism in the country. It has also come up with measures to tackle these problems. Sincere implementation of the policy is expected to solve most of the problems hindering the growth of tourism and put tourism on the track.

BPB Admin Structure
The proposed Bangladesh Parjatan Board Act, 2009 is designed to create a functional and powerful Board to facilitate development of tourism in the country as well as maintain discipline in the industry.

A 13-member governing body headed by Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism as Chairman will be responsible for running the board. The following will be 12 members; (1) representative of the Ministry of Culture (not below the rank of Joint Secretary); (2) representative of the Home Ministry (not below the rank of Joint Secretary); (3) representative of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (not below the rank of Joint Secretary); (4) representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (not below the rank of Joint Secretary); (5) representative of the Land Ministry (not below the rank of Joint Secretary) (6) representative of Roads and Railways Department (not below the rank of Joint Secretary), (7) a government nominated representative from travel agencies; (8) a government nominated representative from tour operators; (9) a government nominated representative from Hotels and Guest House Owners Association; (10) a government nominated representative from Rent A Car) and (11) a government nominated woman with knowledge about tourism. Chief Executive of the Board will be Member-Secretary.

Function of the Board
The function of the Board will be to (a) formulate appropriate and realistic policies to achieve the purpose and objective of the law. (b) Implement plan to overall development of tourism. (c) Identify tourism product, preservation, development, expansion and creation of public awareness. (d) Ensure participation of government, private sector, local people, local administration, non-government organisations, women organisation and media to implement responsible tourism. (e) Establish contact with foreign tourism and international organisations. Help and coordinate efforts to establish contact between domestic private tourism organisations and foreign tourism related establishments. (f) Coordinate with different government agencies for different interest of tourist including security.

(g) Ensure favourable supportive aspects of tourism industry, undertake tourism related development programme, and maintain regular contact and coordination with various government and non-government organizations and ministries in respect of marketing. (h) Establish and operate training institutions for development of human resources for tourism sector and encourage private sector to invest in training. (i) Introduction of Tourism Satellite Account to measure contribution of tourism in national economy. (j) Measures to introduce quality tourism services for the interest of users and quality control. (k) Ensure facilities for participation of disabled tourists. (l) Encourage participation of women in tourism industry. (m) For development of tourism appropriate actions following research, international market watch and analysis. (n) Undertake necessary programme as registration authority for Travel Agency, Hotel and Restaurant, Tour Operator, Guide Service Transportation (Rent-a-Car), Tourism Training) Institutes.

As a regulatory authority, BPB will also have the power to impose various fees on Travel Agents, Hotels and Restaurants, Tour Operators, Guide, Rent-a-car companies, Tourism Training Institutions. Classification of hotels will also be an important job.

The Board will have the power to impose fine and even close business of these tourism stake-holders for violation of rules and regulations.

BPB will have its own fund to run the programmes to improve and expand the standard of tourism industry and services, encourage and help tourism related activities.

The source of this fund will be-(1) Initial government grant; (2) Fees from business under its control and government budget allocation from consolidated fund; (3) Grants from foreign government or organisation and international organisations.

Prior government approval will be needed to receive these grants; (4) Donation from local authority; (5) Donation from individual or organization and (6) Money received from other sources.

BPB will also have the power to earmark tourism protected area for the development and expansion of tourism in the country.

Appointment of CEO
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will be the person who will run the administration of the board and its day-to-day activities. BPB will appoint CEO from outside and the CEO will be responsible to the board for his or her activities.

This provision of appointment of CEO from outside, will facilitate selection of appropriate person for the job-not a bureaucrat. However, pending appointment of the CEO, government may appoint a person with the status of a Joint Secretary or Additional Secretary as Chief Executive on deputation.

The key role
The government has the key role to play in the development of tourism in Bangladesh. Through the NTO, the government by implementing the policy contributes in the tourism development. The government has the main role in regulation and supervision of industry.

It must be admitted that on paper both the policy and law are looking almost flawless. There is hardly anything new to add. But success will depend on how soon policies are translated into action. The past experience in this regard is bitter.

The governments in the past did nothing but neglect to tourism. Policies and plans remained confined to papers. So, there is reason to be apprehensive.

Let us hope, this time there will be no dearth of action and government will sincerely do what are needed to be done. Moreover, the task before the proposed new NTO will be fairly tough as it will be required to begin its journey with no track record to follow.

There is dearth of person with adequate experience and expertise about tourism in the country. So, to find appropriate person for the position of CEO from within the country will be difficult. A person with leadership quality, imagination and initiative is needed for the job and so, a lot will depend on right choice and right decision in this regard. For the greater interest of the industry, the question of hiring from abroad is an option which may be seriously considered.

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