- By Raquib Siddiqi
01 Mar, 2018  |
Dhaka : The number of air travellers in Bangladesh would increase to 21 million in 2035. The commercial aviation sector will provide job to 3.3 million people_ a growth of 145 per cent, over 2014. Commercial aviation's contribution to GDP would be US$8 billion-an increase of 142 per cent over 2014.
The number of air travellers (passengers) was 9 million in 2014. The commercial aviation sector provided 1.3 million jobs and contributed US$3 billion to Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
The figures and future projections were contained in IATA's "Future Economic Impact in Asia Pacific : Unconstrained Projection for 2035."
Compared to three fellow member countries of South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC)_ Sri Lanka, Nepal and Maldives-growth potentials of Bangladesh is higher, the IATA report said.
From 9 million in 2014, number of air travellers in Bangladesh would increase to 21 million in 2035. For Sri Lanka it would be 8 million to 18 million; for Nepal_ 5 million to 11 million and for Maldives_ 4 million to 7 million.
In respect of job creation, Bangladesh would achieve 3.3 million jobs from 1.3 million. For Sri Lanka it would be 0.67 million from 0.28 million. For Nepal, it would be 0.7 million from 0.32 million and for Maldives-0.15 million from 0.08 million.
In Bangladesh, contribution of aviation to GDP would increased from US$3 billion to US$8 billion. In Sri Lanka, it would be from US$3 billion to US$7 billion. In Nepal, it would be from US$.7 billion to US$1.6 billion and in Maldives, it would be US$1 billion to US$3 billion.
The commercial aviation of Bangladesh, is flying high with healthy growth, and according to projection of International Air Transport Association (IATA), it will go even higher.
According to IATA, the economic footprint of aviation goes far beyond the sector. It directly impact the airports and airport related businesses. Supplying and supporting industries are benefitted indirectly. It also induces spending of employees in the economy.
In addition to these wider economic benefits air service facilities like tourism, trade, investment and productivity growth.
But infrastructure is essential to unlocking growth potential. Proper infrastructure to accommodate the growth must be there. So, the development of infrastructure must keep pace with the growth to keep upward trend uninterrupted.
This is applicable for the entire Asia Pacific region in general and Bangladesh in particular. Because, aviation infrastructure in Bangladesh is at present is poor. According to IATA report air travel in Asia will be greater than Europe and North America combined by 2030.
Part of the trend
The growth in Bangladesh is part of the growing trend in Asia Pacific region. According to IATA, Asia-Pacific is achieving unprecedented growth in commercial aviation.
High economic impacts are generated and the spin-off im-pact of increased air connectivity has facilitated general growth, the IATA report said and added that coming capacity increases will generate greater economic im-pact.
Despite low global economic growth since 2009 and weakening economy, global air travel growth has remained strong.
Strong passenger demand since 2000 has resulted in fall of average return fare. But lower fuel price has improved return on airline capital.
In 2014, aviation in Asia Pacific region created 33,656,400 jobs and contributed US$5705.3 billion to the GDP. In 2020 the number of jobs would increased to 45,077,800 and contribution to GDP to US$909.0 billion. In 2025, the number of job would increase to 53,568,000 and contribution to GDP to US$1,049.7 billion. In 2035, the number of jobs would increase to 72,253,800 and contribution to GDP to US$1,340.4 billion.
Lack of follow-up steps
Aviation insiders noted that situation in aviation sector in Bangladesh is not very encouraging because of poor infrastructure.
Through privatisation of air transportation in Bangladesh the government has opened up a new horizon, but has not taken necessary follow-up measures to guide and support the nascent industry.
In the absence of proper up-gradation as required, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) is operating with manpower and equipment, sanctioned more than three decades ago in 1984, when the work load was considerably far less than what it is now.
This situation had forced CAAB to compromise the service quality and function with weaknesses and shortcomings in domestic air services of the country.
It is relevant to mention here that before emergence of private airlines, CAAB used to handle, only one carrier-government-owned Biman Bangladesh Airlines. The workload and manpower requirement of CAAB was comparatively much low. The workload multiplied and diversified with the operation of private airlines in both domestic and international sectors.
The existing facilities at most of the domestic airports_ both landside and airside areas-were built to serve the traffic of just one DC-3 or F-27 or F-28 or ATP flights a day. In the decades between 1950s and 1980s, the airport handled once a day, flight of one of these small commercial aircraft.
Passenger load during the decades was low. But things started changing with the advent of private airlines in the decade of 1990s. With the start flight operation by number of private airlines, domestic airports got great boost to capacity-as a result demand increased significantly.
In recent years, traffic_ both passenger and cargo_ of all the airports has registered significant growth and showing further growth potentials. But unfortunately facilities have failed to keep pace. As a result travellers are suffering due to lack of basic facilities.
Devoid of facilities
The present terminal building was constructed decades ago when only daily one flight and occasionally two flights used to use the airport. The airport has no important basic facilities like arrival hall and baggage delivery system.
Baggages are delivered in open space, outside the terminal building. So, adverse weather conditions increase plight of travellers to a great extent.
The existing terminal buildings are too small even to accommodate passengers of more than two flights of small domestic aircraft, at a time.
Even, the runway_ of the airports except Dhaka, Chitta-gong, Sylhet and Cox's Bazar are not long and strong enough to handle comparatively small aircraft like Boeing B737, now operated by most of the domestic airlines.
The terminal facilities for domestic air travellers in almost all the airports of the country are very poor.
Except Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet condition existed in all other domestic airports are similarly poor. These airports are suffering from neglect and now devoid of providing basic facilities for the movement of passengers and cargo traffic.
Along with growth in passenger traffic, air cargo has also registered significant growth and has great potentials. From only 802 metric tons in 2013, the volume of cargo has increased to 4,743 metric tons in 2017.
With the introduction of prawn culture in greater Khulna area, flower cultivation in greater Jessore and industrial commodities in greater Kushtia , the volume of air cargo movement has increased greatly.
In addition to growth in passenger movement, presently everyday three to four cargo aircraft with prawn fries are moving between Cox’s Bazar and Jessore for quick delivery to the growers in Satkhira and Bagerhat.
Shipments of fresh flowers, vegetables, fruits and some industrial commodities are also recording healthy growth in recent years at Jessore airport.
Unfortunately, however, cargo handling capacity and facilities at domestic airports including Jessore and Cox's Bazar are close to zero.
To achieve IATA projected growth in aviation, development of infrastructure must keep pace with the growth on the industry. This is applicable for both Bangladesh and other countries in Asia Pacific region.
According to IATA, priorities must be given to compliance with ICAO guidance on airport development, terminal and runway capacity.
There is need to involve airlines, through a transparent, objective, and consultative process on charges and other developmental plans.
Enhancing security measures is one of the priorities. Security measures must be constantly improved to combat security threats, the report of the IATA suggested.
However, policies to enhance security measures should also take into consideration the im-pact on travel experience, con-sultation with Aviation industry players (Airlines, Airports, Hotels, Tourism Board etc.) to ensure that all views are captured.
IATA is in favour of defining a shared advocacy approach to add value to Aviation in the local market.
There is also suggestion to establish partnership with traditional and non-traditional stakeholders to amplify the benefits of aviation. Collaborate with CAA and Ministries (Tourism) to promote message and broadcast in media.
Timely govt action needed
Development of aviation infrastructure is essential to unlocking growth potential. In Bangladesh as well as in other Asia Pacific region, this development of aviation infrastructure is the responsibility of the governments, of the respective countries. So, it is the job of the government to plan development of infrastructure to keep pace with the growth.