Great divide waiting to be bridged

Dhaka,  Monday,   2016-09-16
Published : 16 Sep 2016, 22:43:46

Great divide waiting to be bridged

Tourism, domestic and outbound, and the huge surge in festival-time travelling by millions of our citizens from Dhaka to their village  homes and back, have been a study in contrasts.

The  dissimilarities  between the two types of commutation are in the  levels of comfort, predictability of service, security, client satisfaction, and fulfilment of  purposes with which the trips were operated or undertaken. In the essence, there need  not be   an interface  between the two but  they should be  collaborative, mutually complementary  business and service propositions in their own rights.

Although their clienteles and operating domains may be different, tourism and festival-spurred internal travel involve big business touching on many strands of the real economy. This can only thrive, prosper and  reap dividends  through quality service that will  compare favourably with what is on offer in the neighbourhood.

This paper in its Eid-eve  edition carried  a report titled "Airlines  bask in tourism  bonanza." The salient features of  the report are quite insightful  unveiling new trends  in  tourism. Domestic tourism is going as strong as the neighbourhood or regional variety of it. This provides an important   missing link to foreigners insisting on their tourist preferences  being shaped by factoring in the state of domestic tourism.

The  rise in the popularity of package tours to Kathmandu, Bangkok, Singapore, Myanmar  has been matched by a spike in the sales of tickets both ways  on Dhaka-Chittangong -Cox's Bazar,  Dhaka-Jessore, Dhaka -Syedpur-Rajshahi  and Dhaka-Barisal routes. Promotional fares were offered to draw in Eid  travellers.

 As compared with   the  usual occupancy rate of 70-80 per cent, the seats were  100 per cent full on both domestic and international circuits  during Eid-ul-Azha holidays.

Take a cue from the Eid-related successes of aviation companies and  tour operators and you have a basis for a year-round action plan. The government and private sector entrepreneurs need  to energetically  strive, with  necessary fiscal backing, to  overhaul  Bangladesh's tourism infrastructure  in keeping with its emerging economy status of being a prime investment destination in 2016-2025.   

Interestingly,  reflecting  vertical up-end choices,middle class people opted to fly  for ease and comfort   averting huge rush, hassles  and long waiting time that journeys by road ,rail and river meant for all practical purposes.

Admittedly though,there's a great divide between tourism afforded by the rich, semi-rich or a growing middle class  and the festivities-centred mad  but root-loving rush of teeming millions across the country. The passion to celebrate Eid  together in the tranquillity of a rural setting  gets the better of even the minimalist  safety and security considerations for their  own  lives  ,and  no less for  those of their co-travellers.They cling perilously to roofs, fronts, back-sides, window  ledges, railings of buses, trains, launches -- just about anything to stick by. This provided visuals  to the  world media of cumulative   preparatory deficit  on the one hand and a capacity for resilience on the other, which we should now perhaps put a lid on.

Tourism is for leisure, recreation and escapist forays out of the hustle and bustle of  Dhaka city .It has its educative value, and perhaps a mood-perking effect on the mind, aside from getting a  health check , conveying not so subtly ,a no-confidence in our health care system! But the Eid holidayers, countless of them, go to their original  abodes driven by necessity of renewing the bonding with  relatives and friends. While they exchange emotional  strengths grounded in the love of roots,the money they spend is funnelled into the rural economy.

With the breakdown of joint families and the seamless growth of netizens, even nuclear families are losing integration. At a time like this ,some  time-honoured norms like love and compassion for each other have acquired a new relevance.

What flies in the face of  this rather benign context is the sordid repetition more or less of the same old stories of ticketing nightmares, overflowing passengers flailing  limbs from all corners of a transport,unfinished cratered roads, unfit vehicles plying, over speeding amid inadequate highway patrol. With only four-lane throughfares coming to any relief this was again  offset by the  makeshift haats and bazaars abounding on the road shoulders. Paturia -Daulatdia ferry points were swamped by the rising Padma.

There is an unrelenting history of fatal accidents and crippling injuries  during festival times. Generally, 10 persons are killed and 11 persons are injured in accidents. But during  festivals the  number of fatalities  has been 1.5 times and  that of injuries  8 times more than the rest of the year. The casualties taken together for all these years conjure up a stupendous erosion of GDP growth rates. A determined holistic approach has been long overdue.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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