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  Volume: XXIV, Issue No. 21 June 16-30, 2015  
  2012 turns out to be a positive year for country's travel industry
  Untitled Document
_By Raquib Siddiqi
Dhaka : In 2012, the year just ended the travel industry of Bangladesh-tourism, airline, hotel and aviation_ has achieved positive results and laid the foundation for further growth to propel the sector towards brighter future.

Except for airline, all the sub-sector in the travel industry of the country moved towards desired direction and produced encouraging results. The situation in airline sub-sector is mixed as there are both good and bad news.

For the first time in over four decades, the year 2012 provided indication that tourism in the country is closing on to be on the right track.

Though handicapped by a number of inadequacies, the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) deserve mention for making much needed effort, to market Bangla-desh tourism, in tourist generating markets.

Hasan Mansur, the pioneer tour operator of the country and President of Tour Operators' association of Bangladesh (TOAB) while asked to comment on the activities of BTB said that despite lack of professionalism, independence and adequate qualified manpower, BTB is trying to do something meaningful.

Mansur said BTB has started doing a work never done be-fore_ marketing Bangladesh in various tourism fairs in tourist generating countries. But it is too early to assess correctly, the impact of the work being done by BTB.

Taufiq Rahman, a young tour operator in the country told me that while attending World Travel Mart (WTM) in London, he was contacted by a Greek tour operator and finally got a booking for a 15-member group for visit to Bangladesh for 11 nights and 12 days.

Taufiq estimates that holiday traffic to Bangladesh is expected to register significant growth over the previous year. Is this sudden interest in visiting Bangladesh, the outcome of the marketing campaign and promotion of Bangladesh made through attending various international tourism fairs? It is however, not known for sure.

According to participants, though money spent in attending these fairs, is not being done professionally, it is providing opportunity for the global tourist generating markets to feel the presence of Bangladesh as a destination. Moreover, Bangladeshi tour operators are also getting opportunity to showcase their products.

BTB activities
Beginning 2011, BTB started participating in various international tourism fairs. In 2012-13 financial year, BTB has already participated in the following fairs: (1) FITUR, Spain, Jan 2012; (2) ITB Berlin, 2012; (3) Korea World Travel Fair (KOTFA); (4) TTF Kolkata-2012; (5) JATA-2012; (6) World Travel Mart (WTM) London-2012 and (7) CITM-Shanghai. By June 2013, BTB has plan to participate six more fairs--FITUR-Spain; BIT, Italy; OTM, New Delhi; TYB Berlin; KOTFA and COTTM, China.

BTB also jointly organized 11th SAARC Trade Fair & Tourism Mart-2012. On the sideline of the event, BTB organised three international seminars.

The national tourism organization sponsored events like (1) Asian Tourism Fair-2012; (2) Bangladesh International Tourism Fair (BITF)-2011 and 12; (3) Bangladesh Travel and Tourism Fair (BTTF)-2011 and 12 and (4) upcoming Dhaka Travel Mart (DTM)-2013 in next March.

Not the same
For over four decades, the tourism in Bangladesh suffering from a rudderless existence. To kick start its proper development, there is long standing demand for the creation of powerful and independent tourism authority as National Tourism Organi-sation (NTO).

This universal demand, from stakeholders of tourism industry of the country, came very close to fruition, but got killed by the bureaucrats at final stage, on unconvincing pretext. The Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) was created following enactment of a law in September 2010 called Bangladesh Parjatan Board Law. This negated the efforts made through Bangladesh Parjatan Board Law, 2009, drafted to create an independent powerful tourism board and to repeal all the relevant existing laws.

The airline industry of Bangladesh ended 2012 in not so high note due to news both good and bad, happened during the year. The airline industry failed to live up to the expectations. Despite continued growth of air passenger and air cargo traffic in the country, the year saw major player and national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines struggling to keep on flying and oldest private airline of the country, GMG had to fold its operation.

On all count including operation and revenue earning, 2012 was a real bad year for Biman. Despite receiving two brand new Boeing B777-ER towards the end of previous year, it continued to suffer from flight disruptions. Biman spent the whole 2012 struggling for keeping the operation going.

The situation became so precarious that national flag carrier had to suspend entire domestic operation and services to some international destinations. Most strange thing is that no effort was made to infuse new blood in management cadre to improve efficiency in administration. Corruption also continued to harm the greater interest of Biman.

Another, bad news of the airline industry is the possible demise of GMG, the oldest private sector airline of the country. The airline has folded all its operation. The operation was suspended temporarily for re-organisation, it was announced. But there is no sign of resumption of operation.

However, there is good news also. The top good news is the appearance of another private sector airline. Novoair, the newest private sector airline of the country, has already received two Embraer EMB-145 aircraft.

Novo Air is expected to spread its wings with commercial operation later this month (January). Initially it will operate scheduled passenger flights on domestic routes between Dhaka and Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, and Jessore.

The airline is going to introduce Self-Service Web and Kiosk, E-Payment Facilities, Frequent Flyer programme, Valet Assistance Services etc. It will also utilise "NOVOSYS" computerised reservation system, an in-house product.

United Airways
With a fleet of 09 aircraft-from 37-seater to 250-seater; five domestic and eight international routes, United Airways remained the largest private sector airline in the country in financial year 2012.

During the year, the airline operated 4,939 domestic and 2,403 international flights against 4,839 and 1248 respectively in the previous. It represent a growth of 2.07 per cent in domestic sector and 92.55 per cent in international sector.

The airline carried 1,81,612 passengers in domestic sector and 1,60,380 in international sector against 1,46,854 and 61,418 respectively in the previous year-a growth of 23.67 and 161.13 per cent.

During the year, the airline enjoyed a cabin factor 75 per cent in domestic sector and 79 per cent in international sector. In the previous year, the cabin factor was 73 and 77 per cent respectively, an increase of 2.74 and 2.60 per cent respectively.
Total operational revenue increased from Tk.1,780.95 million in the previous year to Tk. 4,810.89 million last years-an increase of 270.13 per cent.

United Airways earned an operating profit of Tk.813.90 million compared to Tk.450.21 million in the previous year. After tax, net profit stood at Tk. 540.69 million.

During 2012, United Airways received two awards- (1) Business Asia Most Res-pected Company Awards 2012 and (2) Arthokantha Best Business Awards 2012.

Regent Airways
In 2012, Regent Airways completed its second year of operation. In terms of performances, it was a good year for the airline.

During the year, Regent Airways operated 6274 flights compared to 5483 in the previous year-a growth of 14 per cent.

The airline carried 2,81,162 passengers during the year, compared to 2,21,670 passengers in the previous year-a growth of 26 per cent,

In 2012, Regent Airways achieved a cabin factor of 89.6 per cent compared to 80.8 per cent in the previous year.

The airline is all set to spread its wings beyond the national boundary.

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.

Chittagong, the second largest city of the country and Cox's Bazar, the tourist city can now boost significant number of upscale hotel rooms. Divisional and district towns of the country are also offering decent accommodation, which were totally absent two decades ago.

There are 11 hotels with brand like Hilton, Hotel Sheraton, two Le Meridiens-one in Airport Road and the other in Banani, two Westins-one more in Dhaka and one in Chittagong, Six Seasons, Platinum Suites 2, Heritage Hotel, Doreen Suites and Hotels, FARS Hotel, ASCOT, Marriot Court Yard are in the pipeline. Delayed, but still alive projects like Hotel Inter-Continental and Holiday Inn at Hazrat Shahjalal Interna-tional Airport resumed some works in 2012.

Civil Aviation
One of the important achievement of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) in 2012, is bringing the country's civil aviation, out of the Significant Safety Concern list of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

During the year, the CAAB has prepared a new organogram to suite the need of the time and also proposed to create an elite force for aviation security of the country. Both are laying with the government for decision.

2012 saw the completion of plan for passenger terminal modernisation of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA). The Tk.15 crore project is designed to improve passenger facilities at the terminal.

In 2012, CAAB took up three projects valued at Tk.763.69 crore. One of the projects is Tk.414.04 crore upgradation of HSIA. When completed, the project will strengthen taxiway and ensure safe movement of aircraft.

To improve the runway of HSIA, a Tk.188 crore project has started. Under the project, Asphalt Concrete Overlay of runway is now being done.

Another project for the expansion of passenger and cargo apron has also started in 2012.This Tk.44 crore project will provide side by side parking of four wide-body passenger aircraft and two wide-body cargo aircraft.

In 2012, CAAB has also taken up a Tk.549.64 project to upgrade Cox's Bazar airport to make it an international airport. It is to help develop tourism.
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