Tourism and air transport sustainability in Bangladesh: the role of technology
Table of Contents:
Nor Aida Abdul Rahman, Muhammad Shoeb-Ur-Rahman and Azizul Hassan
Bangladesh is located in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent. From the recent update by United Nations data published in Worldometer (2020), the current population of Bangladesh is 164,040,611 which is equivalent to 2.1% of the total world population. The development of the tourism industry in Bangladesh began about 20 years ago. As reported in CEIC data, Bangladesh receives tourists from many countries such as Australia, Canada, India, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and many more. There is a significant growth of tourists visiting Bangladesh. For example, Bangladesh visitor arrival grew from 23.6% in December 2017 to 29.1% in 2018. Among Bangladesh’s tourist attractions are include beaches, resorts, forest, wildlife species, historical monuments and many more. In Bangladesh, both the Ministry of Tourism and the Bangladesh Civil Air Transport Ministry are working together in designing the policy for air transport and promoting the tourism industry.
Currently, we are living in the era of technology. Our economy is driven by the technology advancement. In relation to tourism, technology has changed the way we travel. For instance, we can recognize the development of technology in the air transport industry. We can see rapid development of the airline industry especially on the innovation activity in aircraft manufacturing. Martin (2018) highlights the four key developments in air transport technology worldwide including Bangladesh. They are maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO), cloud computing, drones and safety and security systems. Table 3.1 sheds light on the role of each development and how it affects air travel and the tourism sector.
Tourism in Bangladesh - popular tourist attractions
The global air transport and tourism industry is growing, including in Bangladesh. Even though Bangladesh is small in terms of size, however the country has its own attractions and natural splendour. Bangladesh has a strong prospect in tourism activity from its natural beauty forest and its culture. As highlighted by
Table 3.1 Technology and four key developments in air transport technology
44 Rahman, Rahman and Hassan
Table 3.2 Hills as key popular attractions in Bangladesh
Source: Developed by the authors, 2020
Mondal (2017), Bangladesh is a popular country with its forest and biodiversity. Its cultural product has a strong attraction for local and international tourists worldwide to come and visit Bangladesh. An earlier study from Islam and Nath (2014) emphasized that the strong attraction point of Bangladesh is the hills. Bangladesh is a popular country and recognized by its hills. For instance, Chittagong Hills, Saka Haphong Hills, Mowdok Mual, Keokradong, Zow Tiang, Dumlong Peak, Chimbuk Hill and many more (see Table 3.2 for details). These attractions and popular places promise the tourist exciting and interactive experiences in Bangladesh.
It is acknowledged that the tourism industry supports many other businesses such as food, medical, as well as transportation including air transport. Technological advancement has changed the way tourists travel and this technology development also promises exciting experience to the tourist and provides guidance to the tourist in searching for the best food, facilities, places, transport and many more. With regards to technology, tourism and policy in Bangladesh, the first policy related to tourism and air transport was introduced in Bangladesh in 1992. Among the key organizations on the air transport and tourism policy development in Bangladesh are Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, Ministry of Civil Air Transport and Tourism and Bangladesh Tourism Board (Hassan and Burns, 2014).
Tourism, air transport and technology
The global air transport and tourism industry is growing. It is reported that the current global airline revenues already exceed £600 billion per annum (IATA). While the tourism industry is also expected to reach USD 11,382 billion by year 2025. According to International Air Transport Association (IATA) (2019), it is expected that air transport will carry approximately 7.8 billion passengers by year 2036. Technology plays a significant role for the sustainability of any business. It is undeniable that at present, technology plays a critical role to many industry including air transport and tourism and it change the business landscape to become more effective and efficient (Rahman et al., 2019a).
Given the significance of the air transport and tourism industry on social and economic spheres, the focus of this paper is on the technology innovation and adoption of technology in air transport and tourism industry in Bangladesh. It is vital to highlight this issue since technology is documented as a key factor for business sustainability in the 21st century. Hence, if it is left unaddressed, air transport and the tourism industry may fail to grow and become insufficient to compete with other countries. With that, there is a strong reason to look at the technology issue in relation to air transport and air transport business sustainability (Kim et al., 2019). In fact, there is a critical need to further look into how technology play roles across air transport or the air transport industry and tourism industry in Bangladesh. The following research questions are developed in this study: First, why is technology important for the Bangladesh air transport industry? Second, how could technology improve tourism activity in Bangladesh?
From the review of literature, there are many studies that look into air transport technology in mobile application. For instance, Lee et al. (2012) explore technology readiness as a means to predict passenger adoption of check-in kiosks. Taylor (2016) also focused on technology adoption and adoption behaviours specifically relating to mobile applications among the passengers at retail. More recently, Martin-Domingo and Martin (2016) have also explored the use of mobile apps among the tourists at European airports. Recently, Sivarajah et al. (2019) investigate technology usage and digital transformation in helping the industry to gather competitive intelligence in facilitating business sustainability.
Since we are living in the 21st century era, known as the industry 4.0 era, there is a need to explore technology components in more detail. In this technology connectivity era, there is a need to shape the discussion on nine pillars of technology as highlighted by Rahman et al. (2019b). The nine pillars of technology discussed are autonomous robot, simulation, horizontal and vertical integration, internet of things, cybersecurity and block chain, cloud computing, additive manufacturing, augmented reality and big data analytics.
The next section will briefly discuss the nine pillars of technology and air transport in supporting the tourism industry in Bangladesh.
The importance of technology for the Bangladesh air transport industry
Technology development in Bangladesh is vital for economic growth. Historically, the cultivation of technology or modern science was started many years ago since British ruling in Bangladesh via formal education institution establishment in 1921 in the field of science. The internet was introduced a bit late in Bangladesh in 1996. As mentioned by Islam and Rahman (2006), compared to other developing countries, the use of information technology is not at par. This happened because of the lack of awareness about technology and the importance of information technology for industry developments. The first industry that used the internet and information technology was banking, followed by other industries including air transport and tourism.
From the air transport point of view, technology development is crucial in air travel as technology is the main platform for effective communication (Abdul Rahman, 2012). In fact, technology also enhances communication between air traffic controller and pilot, airline with their ground handler and airport authority, and also with their passengers or travellers. From the operation point of view, technology also serves as a tool for improvement for better airline operation, improved ordering catering system for in-flight meals, improved communication with passenger and many more. Universally, the air transport industry is recognized as a highly regulated industry and known as one of the crucial industries that boosts tourism activity and economic growth of any country. The main players in the air transport industry are coming from airline, airport and cargo sectors. Recent technology advancements in the service industry such as aviation have led to the conversion of service delivery from face-to-face to self-service technology. As published in the International Airport Review (2017), there are six key technologies that will revolutionize the aviation and airport industry worldwide including in Bangladesh. They are block chain technology', drone technology, augmented reality, artificial intelligence or also called as Al, airline new distribution capability and beacon technology, which is related to indoor positioning systems.
The value of technology is highly emphasized in the air transport industry including the use of social media (Rahman et al., 2017). For instance, by using social media platforms, the airport or the airline could easily communicate and update any information to the travellers via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media platform. Industry sectors in air transport particularly are natural adopters of cutting-edge technologies apart from transportation, automotive, telecommunication, electrical and electronics (Karaman et al., 2018). Technology has a ubiquitous presence in day-to-day lives for both consumer and business organizations. While for air transport and tourism scholars, these new and emergent technologies present exciting opportunities to manage these exchanges through the ability to collect and access large volume of data from the tourist or travellers. Yet, seemingly the only way that air transport industry players can remain relevant and competitive is via adopting technology and getting their business up to date with current technology developments.
How the nine pillars of technology' could improve Bangladesh air transport and the tourism industry
Air transport or the air transport industry in Bangladesh would have more value in achieving economic development by concentrating and embedding the elements of technology in their supply chain activity. Technology usage not only helps the tourism and air transport players to improve communication systems, operations and business activities, but also help their supply chain to be more efficient according to the market trends and customer demand in term of strategies, products and services offered (Rahman et al., 2019b). Figure 3.1 below shows the nine pillars of technology discussed in this study and Table 3.3 discusses the notion of the technology and why is it important for the Bangladesh air transport industry.
Figure 3.1 Nine pillars of technology in Bangladesh air transport Source: Developed by the authors, 2020
Table 3.3 The notion of nine pillars of technology and why it is significant for the air transport industry or air transport in Bangladesh
48 Rahman, Rahman and Hassan Table 3.3 (Continued)
Source: Developed by the authors, 2020
To conclude, the recent wave of technology development has brought some limitations and contributions which open up new opportunities for both air transport and tourism sector to explore and improve their technological advancements in Bangladesh. This is vital to get updated with the technology to make
Tourism and air transport sustainability 49 both industries possible to sustain for the long run. From the academic point of view, there are many opportunities for scholars to further explore the technology development and its impact in the air transport and tourism perspectives. There is still a dearth of studies that look into usage of technology in Bangladesh from the perspective of air transport and tourism. In fact, scholars may also look at how technology affects the sustainability of the aviation business such as from airline, travel agent, airport, flight kitchen, air cargo provider and other perspectives. Another interesting topic to explore is to see how policymakers support the technology development in Bangladesh from the Ministry of Aviation and tourism perspectives. Since this study is still lacking, there are a lot of opportunities for future scholars to explore the issue of technology in aviation and the tourism sector. This study is limited to discussion on technology in relation to the nine pillars of technology only. Future scholars may also further develop these nine pillars of technology and empirically test how they affect the operational and performance of air transport and the tourism sector. This study contributes to the scholars, practitioners and policymakers in three different ways. Scholars could further discuss on the issue of technology more specifically from different perspectives of technology components in air transport and the tourism industry. Future research is encouraged to be more specific, for instance into type of data and how that data could be analysed and used in decision making and planning for every type of air transport organization including airline, ground handler, caterer, airport and MROs, as well as travel agencies.
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