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.