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A Monthly Special Section of HOLIDAY on Aviation and Tourism
September 26, 2003

Biman recruitment process opaque and irregular

Afrin Jamal
Despite the alleged irregularities in the recruitment process, Biman Bangladesh Airlines has finalised the appointment of 23 cabin crewmen on September 21.
   The selection of the cabin crewmen was based on a written examination that was held on September 19, bypassing a directive of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Civil Aviation and Tourism to suspend the recruitment process.
   Among the major irregularities were faulty short-listing process, change of dates for several times, change in the age and educational qualification of candidates and poor invigilation of the candidates during examinations.
   In addition, there were also allegations of bribery in every step of the recruiting process.
   To protest these irregularities, a group of candidates had also held a sit-in demonstration at the city�s Muktangan area.
   Following several amendments in the advertisement, around 7,000 candidates attended the primary selection procedure. After scrutinising 80 candidates, the Biman authority cancelled the recruitment process as the crowd had become unmanagable.
   The authority then decided to scrutinise the candidates at the thana and district level. Many candidates alleged that the whole process was completed in a very short period and lacked transparency.
   Among the 7,000 candidates, many could not attend the primary selection board at the thana level. However, Biman short-listed 127 candidates from them who appeared for final selection on September 19.
   Responding to a request from a steering committee of the Biman, the Parliamentary Standing Committee directed the Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism to suspend the recruitment process so that irregularities could be probed.
   The Secretary informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee that everything was done according to the rules. However, according to Biman officials, a fresh recruitment process will start soon to compensate the deprived candidates.

OPINION
What is happening to flight safety?

Imam Akhand
�The Boeing 707 aircraft now registered with Uganda Civil Aviation Authority had more than 50 defects noted earlier when it could not be registered here,� one of the national dailies reported. How this aircraft was allowed by CAAB to operate with a separate call sign and engine defects requires looking into. It was also interesting to see that the persons approving flight clearance were also included in the investigation committee.
   We learn from the daily that Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh�s (CAAB) Flight Safety Directorate has seven positions of inspectors that have been lying vacant for the last few years. All the important assignments of the directorate are at the moment not of any standard. Day-to-day surveillance, auditing operators, checking out pilots, conducting ground engineers� and engineering instructors� exam, issuing of licences are not meeting any standard, not to talk about ICAO standard. Candidates expelled in the exam hall are also being issued with aircraft maintenance licences in lieu of money. It is an open secret. During the last session all the candidates (120) have qualified in the exam, which is a national record in the last 30 years. Every applicant knows who is to be contacted for success in exam.
    The Flight Safety Directorate has been entrusted with enormous responsibilities. CAAB is supposed to discharge the duties they are entrusted with. This branch of the authority is the watchdog that oversees the civil aircraft operational activities within and outside the country. The people who play the most the important role to maintain the safety level at an acceptable level are known in the USA as Aviation Safety Inspectors. These inspectors in Bangladesh look after two vital branches of aircraft operation, i.e. flight operations and airworthiness, which are like the two wings of an aircraft. You cannot fly long with one wing up and another wing in down position. Flight operations aspects of civil aircraft operators are sample checked and audited by rated Flight Operations Inspectors (FOI) who are basically experienced pilots and are specially trained for safety visits. The other wing is known as Airworthiness and Engineering Licensing. The inspectors working here are known as Airworthiness Inspectors, who are supposed to be basically experienced in aircraft maintenance and have an aeronautical background. They are supposed to be trained for safety visits and remain well versed in national and ICAO regulations and requirements. If these people are not properly qualified to perform their job, the accident rate shoots up, and if they are skilled, vigilant and effective, the rate goes down. This is true everywhere in the world.
   CAAB�s Flight Safety Directorate is supposed to enforce the national regulations and Air Navigation Orders (ANO) on the ATOL holders and licensed people. But in practice the Authority itself is violating its rules. For example, in 2001 commercial pilot�s licence (CPL) was issued to a pilot who did not even attain the age of 21 years required by Civil Aviation Rule �84.
   In January, 2002 an applicant for AME licence was caught red handed in the examination hall and the chief invigilator cancelled his written paper. But later on he was reassessed as passed and even issued with an AME licence. The people responsible for such acts are not taken to task by the Authority. Instead they are given higher positions such as Director and Deputy Director of the Flight Safety Directorate.
   Since the creation of Director�s position in the Flight Safety Directorate, transport pilots from the Air Force have always occupied it. But the last Awami League government engaged an air traffic controller (who is a famous Awami Leaguer) to head the Flight Safety Directorate as its Director. After taking over he managed to send the other two professional Deputy Directors elsewhere to look after administrative work. In Aviation there are five trades in aircraft maintenance, but CAAB does not have a single inspector for each trade. I was an Assistant Director (trained all over the world) who deserted to Canada, as I was not granted lien by the authority. Flight safety now remains weak with inadequate manpower. How does the authority concerned expect to upgrade its safety standard to Category 1 country when the above unacceptable situation is prevailing in the Flight Safety Directorate?
   A few years back the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), after assessing CAAB�s performance in meeting standards set by ICAO, down-graded Bangladesh as a category-2 country. It identified several areas in which Bangladesh was not found to be up to ICAO standards. Bangladesh must fulfil the deficiencies FAA had identified if it wants to upgrade itself to a category-1 country.
   Actually nothing significant has been done since the last audit to remove the deficiencies. Without meeting these requirements we can never enlist ourselves as a category-1 country. It is evident that high officials of the authority are not serious enough to motivate its staff to achieve any particular target set by FAA�s audit team. This is more apparent from the fact that the government has so far appointed 24 Chief Executives for the organisation since liberation. The post of Director of Flight Safety was always occupied by a pilot so far. How can we expect to upgrade the image of the country by having a non-pilot air transport official as Director of Flight Safety, having no flying experience and any aeronautical background in flight safety matters and ICAO/FAA�s international safety oversight programme? Although five FOI�s have joined the authority so far, none could stay long. CAAB must find out why.
   If ICAO/FAA/COSCAP conducts another follow-up audit now, we may be down-graded further to category-3 country which will mean our national flag carrier will not be able to enter the US airspace any more. Should we not do something to upgrade our country to an international standard?
   The writer is a Former Assistant Director of the CAAB.

Pilot crisis grounds ATPs again

Kazi Shamsul Amin
The two much-talked-about Advanced Turbo Prop (ATP) aircraft have been grounded again as the contract of the foreign pilot is over.
   As a result, Biman Bangladesh Airlines has to over-burden the three ageing F-28 aircraft to maintain schedule in the domestic route.
   A Biman spokesman told New Age they were trying to bring an Indian pilot to operate the ATPs. �We hope that an ATP pilot from India will arrive in a day or two and then the situation will be normal as usual,� he said.
   In the face of acute pilot crisis in Biman Bangladesh Airlines, the government has been trying to sell off the two Advanced Turbo Prop (ATP) aircraft, which were repaired recently to operate in the domestic and regional routes.
   According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, tenders for selling off of the two ATPs and three F-28s were floated several times, but response from the bidders was not adequate.
   �The ATPs are now being kept in running condition with the aim of selling them off,� he added.
   Pilot crisis has stalled the ATPs� operation several times this year. Finally, in April, the government managed to bring some pilots and technicians from the British Aerospace company to operate these aircraft for the time being.
   It has been learnt that the former local ATP pilots and engineers were transferred to Airbus and F-28. Consequently, a vacuum was created there.
   The Biman Corporation repaired the two ATP aircraft recently, which were grounded for three and a half years, at a cost of $40,000.
   The two ATPs were bought in 1996 at a cost of $28 million along with spares worth $11 million. Biman grounded the two aircraft in September, 1999 with a view to selling them off. However, several tenders over the past three and a half years failed to attract any buyer.
   The 80-seat F-28s were bought from The Netherlands in 1981. These are among the oldest aircraft in Biman�s fleet.
   State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism, Mir Mohammed Nasiruddin, recently told the New Age that the aircraft were brought back to running condition to get a better price.
   �We did not get better price quotes during the grounded period. Now we are expecting a reasonable price,� he said, and added that new generation aircraft would be added in place of ATPs.
   Biman is trying to lease ATR72-500s or Dash 8-Q400s in place of these F-28 and ATPs because of their viability on short-distance routes, said sources.

Swiss Airline joins BA�s OneWorld alliance Tue Sep 23

Agency Report
Switzerland�s struggling national airline has negotiated a �strategic alliance� with British Airways that improves the cash resources of the Swiss airline, officials saidon September 23.
   Swiss International Air Lines � known as Swiss � also has joined the British carrier in its OneWorld alliance, a grouping that includes American Airlines, a joint statement said.
   �The decision was made because it was the best option,� Swiss chief Andre Dose told reporters.
   In a legally binding memorandum of understanding, Swiss said it would give British Airways rights to eight of its 14 prized daily slots at Heathrow Airport.
   In exchange, British Airways will support a 50-million Swiss franc ($37 million) credit facility for its new partner. Swiss said major banks in Switzerland also had indicated they may be willing to extend further credits.
   The Swiss stock market reacted enthusiastically at first. When trading resumed following a suspension of more than a day, Swiss shares rose 25 percent Tuesday afternoon to 21.05 Swiss francs ($15.59). But by the end of trading, it had dropped to 17.50 francs ($12.96), a gain of 3.9 percent over its close on Friday.
   Swiss said it plans joint operations between Britain and Switzerland, with codesharing between London�s Heathrow Airport and Zurich, Geneva and Basel.
   European Union regulators will �most likely� scrutinize the agreement to ensure it complies with EU rules on fair business competition, said EU spokeswoman Amelia Torres.
   Swiss said it expects to sign a final deal on the commercial agreement Oct. 24, with the changes to go into effect two days later.
   Swiss said it expects it membership of OneWorld to produce a direct commercial benefit of some 100 million Swiss francs ($74 million) a year. It noted that the alliance�s existing eight members have jointly generated $2 billion in the past three years through their membership of OneWorld.
   The Swiss Travel Club, the airline�s frequent flyer program, will gradually be integrated into British Airway�s Executive Club program. Swiss customers will earn miles on all OneWorld airlines, and points already earned with Swiss will remain valid.
   �This commercial deal will benefit British Airways and the new Swiss, which has a quality product, network and hub in Zurich, which makes it a logical fit to OneWorld in Central Europe,� said British Airways� chief executive Rod Eddington.
   Besides British Airways and American Airlines, the OneWorld alliance includes Australia�s Qantas, Cathay Pacific of Hong Kong, Spanish carrier Iberia, Chile�s LanChile, Finnish carrier Finnair and Ireland�s Aer Lingus.
   The alliance�s network covers 570 destinations and 136 countries.
   Swiss, which lost 333 million francs ($253.6 million) in the first six months of this year, had faced months of speculation over a link up with another company, seen as a way to keep the carrier in the air. Most market rumors had focused on a possible deal with Germany�s Lufthansa, which would have put Swiss into the Star Alliance, a network that consists of 16 carriers, including Air Canada and United Airlines.
   Swiss has suffered massive financial problems since it was created out of the defunct Swissair in March 2002. Swiss has blamed its money woes on continuing global economic instability, the SARS crisis in Asia, the Iraq war and major changes in European air travel due to the increasing influence of low-cost carriers.

HK carrier Cathay to face mass pilot legal action over roster changes

Agency Report
Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific is facing legal action by disgruntled pilots who claim management have ignored a court ruling against the airline over controversial roster changes, a report said.
   The threat of more legal action comes five months after Hong Kong�s Court of First Instance ruled in favour of Cathay pilot Murray Gardner who successfully won an action blocking roster changes introduced in August 2001.
   But because the court�s ruling applied only to Gardner, pilots union the Aircrew Officers Association (AOA) said most of its 1,500 members had now begun their own actions to try to duplicate the April ruling, the Sunday Morning Post reported.
   In April, Cathay Pacific was judged to have breached a contractual agreement that it entered into with the AOA in July 1999.
   Cathay�s roster changes, said to increase flying hours, cut the minimum number of pilots on a long-haul flight from four to three and stop pilots from swapping duties, have been a thorny issue between the carrier and the AOA.
   The AOA said it had previously believed Gardner�s ruling would apply to Cathay pilots but said it had now been forced into taking follow up court action.
   In a confidential document circulated to the pilots on Friday, AOA president Nigel Demery told members: �In the face of a clear legal ruling ... it remains Cathay Pacific�s intention to continue to deliberately breach its pilots� contracts.
   �As no meaningful change has been made to your rostering depsite two years of legally proven breach, we have no alternative but to commence a new action for the remaining pilots immediately.�
   However, a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said the new roster arrangements had been in place for two years and there had been no complaints from any pilots other than Gardner.
   Cathay management and pilots have been locked in a another long-running dispute which first centred on benefits but which snowballed with the sacking of dozens of pilots in 2001.

Air France, KLM weigh deal that could create top European airline

Agency Report
Air France said it was holding in-depth talks with KLM that would include the Dutch carrier joining the Skyteam alliance and could create the biggest airline in Europe.
   Air France said on September 17 in a statement: �Air France and KLM confirm that detailed discussions between the two companies are taking place in view of an intensive cooperation, concurrently with KLM�s entry into the SkyTeam alliance.�
   A merger or takeover would create the biggest European airline and the biggest airline in the world in terms of sales.
   �These negotiations are in an advanced stage; however, critical points are still under discussion between the parties and further communication will follow as soon as an agreement is expected to be reached�, the Air France statement said.
   On Tuesday trade union sources at both carriers said an alliance was imminent.
   One union source said the boards of the two airlines would meet on September 17.

Singapore Airlines to introduce world�s longest passenger flights

Agency Report
Singapore Airlines (SIA) plans to introduce the world�s longest commercial flights with a non-stop route from Singapore to Los Angeles that will take up to 18 hours, the carrier said.
   SIA spokeswoman Wendy Wong told AFP the airline planned to introduce the flights next year using its new Airbus A340-500s, although a firm date had yet to be set pending an agreement with unions and other parties.
   �It will set a record for the longest non-stop commercial flight,� Wong said.
   The new Singapore-Los Angeles direct route could take as little as 16 hours but could stretch out to 18 hours depending on wind and other weather conditions.
   Passengers flying to the United States� west coast with SIA currently have to stop over in Tokyo or Taipei, Wong said.
   Airbus communications director for Asia Anthony Phillips said Continental Airlines currently has the record for the longest non-stop commercial flight with a New York to Hong Kong route that takes just under 16 hours.
   He said Thai Airways had also ordered a fleet of A340-500s and planned to introduce what is known in the industry as ultra long range flights between Bangkok and Chicago in 2005.
   SIA confirms settlement with Taipei plane crash survivor
   Singapore Airlines (SIA) has confirmed it has settled a lawsuit brought against the company by a survivor of a plane crash that killed 83 people in Taiwan three years ago.
   �I can confirm that a settlement has been reached with the plaintiff but we are prohibited by the court from disclosing the amount,� SIA spokesman Ric Clements told AFP on September 19.
   �It is, however, substantially less than the plaintiff had demanded.�
   In his lawsuit filed in the United States, retired college professor Harald Linke had demanded unspecified damages for injuries he received when an SIA plane crashed while attempting to take off on the wrong runway at Taipei�s Chiang Kai-Shek airport on October 31, 2000.
   Linke�s lawyer, Kevin Boyle, said in Los Angeles that the amount offered to settle the lawsuit was �extremely substantial and probably a record sum for a post traumatic stress syndrome case without significant injury�.
   Boyle said SIA �finally offered us what we deemed to be an honourable amount,� adding that the terms of the deal were protected by a confidentiality agreement.
   Clements, however, said �we do not know the basis for saying that the settlement was a record sum.�
   The crash happened when Flight SQ006, a Boeing 747-400 en route from Singapore to Los Angeles, attempting to take off during a storm, ploughed into construction equipment and exploded, killing 83 people and injuring 57 of the 179 people on board.
   The former New York University biology professor�s negligence suit was the first of several brought over the crash to reach trial in the United States, his lawyers said.
   The settlement should set an important precedent in resolving more than 140 US lawsuits stemming from the crash, they said.
   The cases are being heard in California as the jet was bound for Los Angeles after a refuelling stop in Taipei.
   The next �exemplar� case stemming from the crash is due to go to trial in Los Angeles on September 30. It was brought by a passenger who was badly burned.
   In separate investigations, Taiwan�s Aviation Safety Council blamed the crash largely on pilot error, while Singapore officials said there were many contributing factors, including airport deficiencies.

Airlines cancel more than 1,300 flights due to Isabel

Agency Report
Major airlines cancelled more than 1,300 flights and moved aircraft out of the path of Hurricane Isabel on September 18 as its powerful winds severely disrupted air travel in the United States.
   Airlines suspended flights at 19 airports in the Northeast, South and Midwest, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Some travellers headed for one New York-area airport were held up for six hours.
   Many cancellations also affected flights, and Isabel�s impact could affect operations at airports into the weekend.
   Arrivals and departures dropped rapidly at the Washington-area�s three big airports as the leading winds and rains of Isabel moved into the region.
   Airlines removed all but a handful of planes from the rain-swept tarmac at Washington�s Reagan-National in the shadow of the capital where flights were to stop before nightfall.
   International arrivals and departures at Dulles airport, where United Airlines operates a hub, were also cancelled, including British Airways service to and from London�s Heathrow airport.
   Baltimore-Washington International airport in Maryland, where Southwest Airlines operates 156 daily flights, experienced numerous cancellations and delays. Airlines there planned to suspend service by early evening.

World Tourism Day, 2003
The role of tourism in poverty alleviation and job creation

M. Abdul Latif Mondal
The 27th of September is observed as the World Tourism Day all over the world. The theme of World Tourism Day-2003, is Tourism: A Driving Force for Poverty Alleviation, Job Creation and Social Harmony. The 14th session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), held in 2001, approved the above theme on the recommendation of the Executive Council.
   The theme has been rightly chosen in view of the fact that according to reports of some international organisations, more than 1200 million people live on less than one dollar a day, more than ten million children die every year due to lack of preventive medical care, more than 500,000 women die at child birth or during pregnancy every year, and more than a thousand million people do not have access to safe drinking water. The above situation prevails mostly in the least developed and developing countries of the world.
   Combating poverty has become one of the most, if not the most, grave challenges the world is facing in the 21st century. Poverty alleviation has become one of the central themes of the United Nations and of the national governments of the least developed and developing countries. The tourism sector can play an important role in poverty reduction in these countries. According to WTO, as a sector for pro-poor economic growth, tourism has the following advantages:
   � The consumer travels to the destination providing opportunities for the sale of additional goods and services.
   � Tourism creates important opportunities to diversify the local economy. It can often be developed in poor and marginal areas with few other export and diversification options. Tourists are often attracted to remote areas because of their high cultural, wildlife and landscape values. One of the assets of the poor is their culture and wildlife heritage, and tourism presents opportunities to capitalise on those assets.
   � Tourism offers better labour-intensive and small-scale opportunities than other sectors (except agriculture) and it employs a relatively high proportion of women.
   The proper utilisation of the above advantages has helped a number of least developed and developing countries to reduce their poverty to a considerable extent.
   Tourism development has traditionally been pursued for its impacts on employment and economic growth, and perhaps most significantly for foreign exchange earnings. As per statistics issued by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), more than 255 million people are employed in the global tourism industry, and by the year 2006 no fewer than 385 million will be working in this sector. Research shows that job creation in tourism is growing 11.2 times faster than any other industry.
   The number of international tourists increased from 644 million in 2000 to 696 million in 2001 and to 715 million in 2002. According to WTO, the number of international tourists is expected to be 1006 million and 1561 million in 2010 and 2020 respectively. Likewise, earnings are predicted to grow to $1,550 billion by 2010. Developing countries had a current account surplus of $23.5 billion in 1995 on tourism. Tourism is a principal export of 83 per cent of developing countries and it is the principal export for one third of developing countries.
   Tourism is more labour intensive than manufacturing (although not as labour intensive as agriculture). There is greater employment of women than in any other sector. The percentage of female workers varies enormously according to country, ranging from over 60 per cent such as in Bolivia to fewer than 10 per cent in some countries. About three per cent of Nepal�s population is employed directly or indirectly by the tourism sector.
   Direct and indirect employment created by tourism in Thailand in 2000 was 2,503,356 persons or 7.62 per cent of total employment. Tourism generates 18.5 million direct and 25.19 million indirect employment in India. In Tanzania, tourism directly supports about 1,500,000 jobs. Zambian tourism is rural based, therefore its growth has had a great impact on the development of rural areas of that country.
   Poverty has been a perennial problem for Bangladesh. The plans and programmes of all the successive governments for alleviation of poverty have failed to achieve the desired results. The Preliminary Report of Household Income and Expenditure Survey-2000 (published by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in December, 2001) shows the incidence of poverty in the country.
   It appears from the aforesaid HIES that absolute poverty based on intake of 2122 kilo calories of energy per capita per day was 55.7 per cent in 1985- 86 and shrank to 47.8 per cent in 1988-89; for the next two survey periods � 1991-92 and 1995-96 � it remained the same: 47.5 per cent at the national level. In 2000, it was slightly reduced to 44.3 per cent.
   On the other hand, hard core poverty based on per capita per day intake of 1.805 kilo calorie of energy fluctuated from 1985-86 to 1995-96. It was 26.9 per cent in 1985, increased to 28.4 per cent in 1988-89, slightly fell to 28.0 per cent in 1991-92 and further shrank to 25.1 per cent in 1995-96. It came down to 20 per cent in 2000.
   Unemployment is a colossal problem of Bangladesh. The Report of the Labour Force Survey Bangladesh 1999-2000 (published by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics in August, 2002) reveals that the unemployment rate stood at 4.3 per cent in 1999-2000 compared to 3.5 per cent in 1995-96. For urban areas, the unemployment rate was 5.8 per cent in 1999-2000 as against 4.8 per cent in 1995-96. In the rural areas, the unemployment rate was 3.9 per cent in 1999-2000 compared to 3.1 per cent in 1995-96.
   The Asian Development Bank�s publication entitled Key Indicators of Developing Asian and Pacific Countries-2002 shows that between l995 and 2000, Bangladesh experienced labour force growth exceeding 3 per cent per annum. At present, direct and indirect employment in the tourism sector of Bangladesh is about 100,000 and 200,000 respectively. This is a discouraging figure compared to the country�s population of 129.25 million in 2001.
   Bangladesh is fortunate enough to possess a natural capital base in the form of wildlife including the world famous Royal Bengal Tiger, the largest mangrove forest of the world, beaches including the world�s longest unbroken beach, scenic beauty, wetlands, etc. which, if quantified in financial terms, would represent a huge capital asset. Bangladesh also possesses a rich archaeological, architectural and cultural heritage. We have not been able to make proper use of these natural and manmade capital bases to promote the country�s tourism sector.
   The important problems and constraints faced by the country�s tourism sector are: a) lack of strong political will, b) lack of coordination among the public sector organisations responsible for promotion of the tourism industry in the country, c) absence of adequate and developed infrastructure facilities, d) poor response from the private sector, e) image problem abroad, f) inadequate publicity, and g) lack of easy frontier formalities.
   The proper use of the aforesaid natural and manmade capital base, creation of satisfactory infrastructure facilities, removal of the adverse image that Bangladesh is a country of floods, cyclones and other natural calamities from the mind of international tourists, projection of tourist destinations and products abroad through national and international electronic and print media and participation in important regional and international travel-tour fairs, easing frontier formalities and ensuring complete safety and security to the tourists can largely contribute to the promotion of the country�s tourism industry.
   Tourism is a multi-dimensional industry and it requires the services of people of all strata of the society including farmers, fishermen, boatmen and other transport workers, hairdressers, launderers, craftsmen and so on. All these service providers get a share from the earnings of this industry. Labour intensive tourism industry encompassing poor section of the society can thus work as a medium for reduction of poverty in Bangladesh.
   Bangladesh is primarily a rural society. More than 90 per cent of tourism business is small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and tourism, therefore, is a great supporter of entrepreneurship, cottage industries and economic diversity, particularly in rural areas. Together with employment and entrepreneurship, tourism can prevent rural to urban migration. We can learn from the Zambian experience of rural-based tourism. The growth of rural-based tourism will have a great impact on our rural economy. This will gradually help reduce rural poverty.
   Tourists, local or international, prefer economic accommodation with safety and satisfactory hygienic conditions at the tourist spots. In Europe, 70 per cent of the total tourist accommodation capacity is provided by small and medium-sized firms.
   In a well established developing country destination like Gambia, increasing numbers of tourists are staying in locally owned accommodation. In Thailand, the government agencies and the non-government organisations have undertaken projects aimed at community involvement in tourism through �home stays� as a tool for equitable income distribution and poverty alleviation. This leads to the development of tourist facilities attached to local villages.
   Bangladesh can carefully study the above programme of Thailand and, if found viable, may adopt it for implementation. The success of the programme will help improve the rural economy of the country.
   The worldwide focus is now on ecotourism or ecologically sustainable tourism that means development of tourism without any harm to environment and nature.
   The Sundarbans, the world�s largest mangrove forest, is an ideal place for promotion of ecotourism. The conservation project undertaken by the government with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank aims at developing a sustainable management and biodiversity conservation system for the Sundarbans.
   If properly implemented, this will help reduce poverty of about 3.5 million people living in the areas around the forest. Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari, the three hill districts of the country, offer beautiful spots where nature has been least disturbed.
   The unique customs and costumes of the tribal people of the hill districts indicate their ancient tradition and cultural heritage.
   The hill districts are, therefore, an ideal destination for the ecotourists. Favourable conditions including improved communication system, availability of economic accommodation with satisfactory hygienic conditions and complete safety and security to the tourists will contribute to the growth of ecotourism there.
   Since we have not been able to successfully project Bangladesh to the tourist generating countries as an attractive tourist destination, she has the second lowest visitor arrivals among the member countries of SAARC. During the years 1997 to 2001, the number of visitors moved between 182,000 and 207,199 and the highest foreign exchange earnings were equivalent to Taka 2653.80 million in 2001.This is not a satisfactory situation at all.
   Tourism promotion in Bangladesh needs a strong partnership of the public and private sectors. International tourist arrivals will increase considerably if Bangladesh can be made an attractive tourist destination. This will result in the increase of foreign exchange earnings and help develop the country�s economy.
   The writer is a former Secretary to the Government of Bangladesh

Sri Lanka seeks two billion-dollar investment for tourism boom

Agency Report
Sri Lanka�s tourism ministry said it was seeking two billion dollars in local and foreign investment in the hospitality sector to meet rapidly rising demand for hotel rooms.
   The ongoing truce between Sri Lankan troops and Tamil Tiger rebels has led to a surge in the number of foreigners visiting the island, Tourism Minister Gamini Lokuge said.
   �We will need about two billion dollars in investments into hotels, theme parks and entertainment centres,� Lokuge told reporters in Colombo.
   �This money is needed in the next seven years when the number of tourist arrivals is expected to rise to one million.�
   He said Sri Lanka hoped the number of holiday makers visiting the island would reach half a million this year, up from 393,000 in 2002.
   However, the country�s 13,500 hotel rooms can cater for only 700,000 tourists a year and will be unable to cope with sudden peaks in demand such as during the England cricket team�s tour in November.
   The country would be short of about 3,500 rooms during the tour because a large number of English fans are expected to travel with the team, the minister said.
   He said the tourist board had already approved at least 40 projects this year for the expansion of hotels or building of new properties catering to upmarket tourists.
   Tourism hit rock bottom following the July 24, 2001 suicide bombing of Sri Lanka�s only international airport by Tamil Tiger rebels. No foreigners were hurt but four SriLankan Airlines planes were destroyed.
   Two other aircraft were also damaged in the attack which left 21 rebels and security personnel killed.
   The government and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) entered into a Norwegian-brokered truce on February 23 last year. Even though peace talks remain deadlocked, both sides have said they will abide by the ceasefire.
   The new hotel projects given the green light include a 100-room four-star property in the northern town of Jaffna, a hotbed of rebel activity and the scene of heavy battles at the height of fighting.

Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel to be refurbished

Aviatour Desk
Pan Pacific Sonargaon, located in the centre of the Dhaka�s commercial hub, is going to have a facelift to cater to the diverse taste, comforts and needs of the growing number of foreign guests in the city. The refurbishment will start in January 2004 and is expected to be finished within a year.
   The theme of the refurbishment is �Celebration of Bangladesh� because most of the things those will be used, would be Bangladeshi products reflecting the rich culture and heritage of Bangladesh.
   Besides having a magnificent interior renovation the entire existing facilities with suitable relocation of some outlets, the hotel will also have a four-level parking lot under the refurbishment programme, to be implemented solely from the hotel�s own resources. The refurbishment will start with the third and fourth floor rooms along with Ballroom and Main Kitchen. A reflection of Islamic Bangladesh will be kept there by keeping the archways with its own elegant feature.
   The entry of Lobby will be with two archways and in the middle there will be wood carvings. All the upholstery and other fabrics for curtain, bed-sheet, pillow cover etc. will be made in the country. There, one can show his or her guests, saying proudly that this is a hotel in Bangladesh with all these Bangladeshi products.
   The Cafe Bazar restaurant will feature a very Bangladeshi feel and touch in its decoration. On two sides of the entry of Cafe Bazar, there will be lines of terra-cotta pots, one over the other, making it a terracotta wall on two sides of the entry. Inside the restaurant, on the right while entering, one will find a series of brightly coloured canopies like Rickshaw hood of Dhaka. And on the left one will find the long Buffet Table serving Bangladeshi, Japa-nese and International buffet.
   Cafe Bazar will definitely feature a la carte menu with all its international variety. So, the restaurant will splendidly feature the very Bangladesh in its total decor while serving both Bangladeshi and International cuisine.
   Balcony Bar and Italian restaurant Ciao, will be relocated at ground floor of courtyard building and poolside respectively.

Thai Food Festival held at Dhaka Sheraton

Aviatour Desk
To celebrate the inauguration of the new expansion, Dhaka Sheraton Hotel undertook a series of colourful activities, promotions and events as well as Sheraton Hospitality.
   As part of that, Dhaka Sheraton arranged a week-long Thai food festival from September 2, featuring the cultural heritage of Thailand as well as a wide array of authentic Thai cuisine and traditional Thai cultural events and hospitality.
   Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia formally inaugurated the expansion of the hotel on September 2.
   On the same day, Mir Mohammed Nasiruddin, State Minister, Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism inaugurated the Thai food festival as chief guest at the Winter Garden of Dhaka Sheraton Hotel on the evening of September 2.
   Erhard Hotter, Vice President and Area Managing Director for South East Asia, Starwood Hotels and Resorts was present on the occasion and said that, he was absolutely amazed by the enthusiasm of the Bangladeshi people and their �thirst� for new and exciting food experiences.
   He hoped that more of these festivals would be forthcoming and stressed that mission of various countries should get behind these events more in the future to better promote their food culture.
   Trevor MacDonald, General Manager of Dhaka Sheraton Hotel, said that this is the start of Sheraton �festival of events� and due to the popularity of the Thai cuisine here it was selected as the first festival event. Others will follow
   shortly.�
   To perform during the festival two musical performers from Thailand had arrived at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel and guest audience enjoyed their performance, which featured the Thai heritage and culture.
   Two Thai chefs and a hostess from the Sheraton Royal Orchid in Bangkok also flown in and the guests enjoyed
   the authentic taste of Thai food.
   Diners had the opportunity to enjoy a Thai Cultural Programme while dining at the Bithika Restaurant of the hotel.

Seven foreign airlines get permission to fly Basra

Agency Report
American administrators in Iraq have given seven foreign airlines permission to fly into the southern city of Basra once that airport reopens, a spokesman for British Airways, the largest of the companies chosen, says.
   More than 20 companies applied in July to the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led administrative body in Iraq, to fly into Baghdad.
   But because of continuing guerrilla warfare in the capital - with at least two recent attacks on military transport planes using surface-to-air missiles - administrators have decided to open Basra first to international flights.
   There is no definite timetable set for the reopening of the airport, but people in the airline industry say service could start within a couple of weeks. Six of the seven selected airlines - Emirates Airline, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Gulf Air, Qatar Airways, Scandinavian Airlines System and LOT Polish Airlines - will start flights first, and British Airways will begin service later.
   Andre Laborde, a spokesman for the provisional authority, said Wednesday that he was not aware of permission being given to the airlines.
   Because of renovations, the number of flights at the Basra airport will be severely limited, and a schedule has already been worked out for which airline will fly in on each day. Royal Jordanian will fly on Sundays and Wednesdays between Basra and Amman, Jordan, while five of the other six carriers will fly on one of the other days, said John Lampl, a British Airways spokesman.
   Though British Airways intends to fly to Basra twice a week from London�s Heathrow Airport via Kuwait with a Boeing 777, the airline will not start service when the Basra airport first opens, Lampl said. The airline still has to finalize its service plan and submit it to the Coalition Provisional Authority, as well as get permission from Britain�s Department of Transport, he added.
   Warnings from the Department of Transport prompted British Airways on Wednesday to suspend its four weekly flights between Heathrow and both Riyadh and Jidda, in Saudi Arabia.
   As for Basra, Lampl said, �We want to do it as soon as possible, but at the same time we want to be assured that the airport works and that there�s safety and security, and that the airport can handle the aircraft.�
   British Airways wants to begin its service to Basra once the airport adds more daily flight slots, he said.
   Some industry experts said it still seemed too early to try to start service into Iraq in light of the daily attacks on American and British soldiers, as well as on Iraqi and foreign civilians.
   �Certainly these guys are gutsier than I am,� Darryl Jenkins, director of the Aviation Institute at George Washington University, said of the airlines. �I would wait a long time. I would wait for a modicum of order. Maybe they know something I don�t know, but it�s very, very scary.�

Brunei Air resumes Bangladesh operation

Staff Correspondent
Brunei Airlines is planning direct flight between Dhaka and Bandar Seri Begawan, capital of Brunei by March next year if the recently appointed general sales agent of the airlines gets good response.
   Royal Brunei Airlines, national flag carrier of Brunei Darussalam, resumed its operation in Bangladesh on Thursday after a six-year recess.
   The airline also appointed Travel Market Limited as its new general sales agent (GSA) in Bangladesh.
   Chairman of Travel Market Limited Monir Ahmed said that passengers now would be able to fly to 23 European, Australian and Asian destinations from Dhaka by Royal Brunei.
   In 1997, Royal Brunei started its first operation in Bangladesh by appointing a local travel company as its GSA. But the carrier later discontinued its service due to a discord with the GSA.
   Earlier, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin inaugurated the local office of Royal Brunei Airlines at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.
   He said the number of destinations would go up to 27 within three months as Auckland, a commercial hub of New Zealand, along with three other cities will join the list.
   Speaking at the function, Civil Aviation and Tourism Secretary Mohammad Shafiqul Islam said the launching of Royal Brunei service would help enhance economic ties between Bangladesh and Brunei.
   Brunei High Commissioner to Dhaka Dato Haji Abdul Mohit said currently around 12,000 Bangladeshis are staying in Brunei.
   Biman Bangladesh Airlines Managing Director Air Commodore (Retd) Lutfur Rahman, Royal Brunei Airlines Director of Corporate and Strategy Hanafiah Jikeria and Travel Market Managing Director M Zaman also spoke at the function.

United Airlines of USA opens new office in Dhaka

Aviatour Desk
United Airlines, a US carrier and one of the largest in the world, has now a new office in Dhaka.
   The office, located at fifth floor of Taj Marriot, Gulshan Avenue, was formally inaugurated by Harry Keels Thomas, Jr, Ambassador of the United States of American to Bangladesh in the afternoon on September 18.
   Inaugurating the new office of his country�s premier airline, Ambassador Thomas said that he would be happy to see further growth of commercial relations between Bangladesh and the United States of American in near future.
   Spiro J. Deligiannis, Manager, Asia Pacific of the United Airlines was present at the function as Special Guest.
   Organised by United Link Limited, the General Sales Agent (GSA) of the airline in Bangladesh, the function was attended by selected group of elite and travel trade executives.
   Earlier, the airlines distributed awards among the passenger and cargo agents in recognition of the business to the airline. Eight passenger and four cargo agents received awards from Spiro J. Deligiannis.
   Despite having off-line GSA in Bangladesh for over a decade, Spiro is the first United Airlines official ever to visit this country. The award distribution to recognise business contribution of agents was also the first.
   Speaking on the occasion, Spiro said that the airline was currently undergoing massive re-organisation to be an efficient and profitable carrier without compromising the quality of services.
   His visit to off-line countries like Bangladesh is designed to explore new markets, he said. In reply to a question, he said that he would discuss with relevant section in the head office about introduction of special fare from Bangladesh.
   Ahmed Yusuf Walid, Director of United Link Ltd, also spoke on the occasion and thanked the agents for their support.

Emirates eye Bulgaria�s flag carrier

Agency Report
Dubai�s Emirates Airlines is interested in the privatisation of Bulgaria�s recently set-up flag carrier Bulgaria Air, it emerged at the meeting of Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Nikolay Vassilev and Maurice Flanagan, Vice Chairman and Group President of the company.
   Emirates Airlines boast over 200 international awards and enjoy the image of one of the fastest growing airline company. It flies to 67 destinations in Europe, the Middle and Far East, Africa, Asia and Australia.
   100 percent of Bulgaria Air, which replaced bankrupt one-time national carrier Balkan Airlines, will be offered to strategic investors. Some 51 percent of them will be offered to Bulgarian companies while the other 25 percent of the shares will be floated on Bulgaria�s stock exchange.
   Possibilities for the participation of Dubai companies in extending concessions for Bulgarian airports were discussed at a meeting with air travel services company Dnata. Dnata recommended that Bulgaria open its air space for the benefit of the whole sector.

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