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Visitors Opinion and Preference about Ahsan Manzil, Old Dhaka: An Exploratory Study

Journal of Bangladesh Institute of Planners ISSN Vol. 5, December 2012, pp , Bangladesh Institute of Planners Visitors Opinion and Preference about Ahsan Manzil, Old Dhaka: An Exploratory
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Journal of Bangladesh Institute of Planners ISSN Vol. 5, December 2012, pp , Bangladesh Institute of Planners Visitors Opinion and Preference about Ahsan Manzil, Old Dhaka: An Exploratory Study Shaila Jamal * Subrina Rahman ** Sonia Rahman *** Dr. Afsana Haque **** Abstract Ahsan Manzil, situated on the left bank of the river Buriganga, is one of the most significant heritage sites of Bangladesh. This site is one of the major sources of recreation for the inhabitants of Dhaka, particularly for the dwellers of the congested Old Dhaka. But the conservation of this invaluable heritage site and its management have always failed to receive proper attention of the concerned authorities. The current research mainly focuses on visitors characteristics and preferences for Ahsan Manzil and people s willingness to pay for the attributes offered by this place. Selected socio-economic variables concerned with the tourists are tested for association with the frequency of visit using chi-square analysis. The priority attributes for visitors in choosing the Ahsan Manzil are analyzed using Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). Then some policy suggestions have been made in the study. Introduction Ahsan Manzil is one of the most significant heritage sites of Bangladesh (Figure 1). The architectural significance of the palace, situated on the left bank of the river Buriganga, near Wiseghat in Old Dhaka, is invaluable. It was the residence and Sadar Kachery (headquarter) of the Nawabs ( ) of Bengal (Banglapedia, 2011). From the middle of the 19 th century to the beginning of the Pakistan period for about one hundred years, Muslims of East Bengal got their leadership from this palace. Again, the first use of filtered water and electricity in Dhaka was at Ahsan Manzil through which the establishment of urban Dhaka was launched. Nawab Khwaja Salimullah took some historic decisions here which had significant implications in the partition of Bengal in 1905 (Alamgir, 2010: 4). Current 4.95 acres total area of Ahsan Manzil consists of a two-storied palace measuring 125.4X sq.m. with a huge dome on the top and an open spacious stairway coming down from the southern portico extending on to the bank of the river, a garden surrounding the palace, an office building with a library (limited access to mass people) and a snacks corner (Banglapedia, 2011). The palace has 31 rooms, 23 galleries displaying portraits, furniture, household articles etc. belonging to Nawabs' families. The Ahsan Manzil and its museum are opened for the mass people since 20 th September, 1992 under the control of Bangladesh National Museum (Alamgir, 2010: 6). * Masters Student, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), ** Masters Student, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), *** Masters Student, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), **** Assistant Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), 140 Journal of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Vol. 5, December 2012 This historical site has become very important tourist attraction and source of recreation as well not only to the Dhaka dwellers but also to the citizens of the whole country. But preservation and conservation of this property has always been in a deplorable state due to market driven unplanned development in its surrounding areas, lack of resources, poor law enforcement and sometimes even failure in perceiving the importance of preserving and conserving this particular site. In 2009, the government of Bangladesh has declared 93 historic buildings and four heritage sites including Ahsan Manzil for preservation and conservation considering their values. Ahsan Manzil is one of them. The Nagar Unnayan Committee (City Development Committee) of RAJUK has decided that the listed buildings and areas must not be demolished, rebuilt, altered or modified fully or partially without its approval (The Daily Star, 2009). Nawab Bari Pond Ahsan Manzil Palace Main Entrance Ahsan Manzil Museum N Garden Source: Google Earth, 2011 Fig. 1: Site plan of Ahsan Manzil. Even though the government of Bangladesh has very good intention and motivation, it is often impoverished with resources to protect, conserve and sustainable use of the sites of historic importance. Every fiscal year, the Government of Bangladesh approves grant for Ahsan Manzil. This grant along with the site s income is mainly used for maintenance and management purposes. But the fund often proves to be insufficient for proper conservation and preservation. Hence strengthening the sources or looking for alternative source of finance for making the authority of this site financially self-sufficient and reducing their dependence on government subsidies or other forms of finance should be explored for Ahsan Manzil, like any general historic sites (Mourato et al., 2004: 1-27). The fundamental factors behind such exploration of funds depends on the characteristics of Ahsan Manzil (eg. its architecture, scenic beauty, cultural value, accessibility etc.), which ultimately determine its value 1 to its users. 1 The value consists of direct use value (like recreation), option value (which compares current benefits with Visitors Opinion and Preference about Ahsan Manzil, Old Dhaka: An Exploratory Study 141 Nowadays, consumer oriented approaches have become popular over traditional supply driven approaches to conduct market research studies on heritage management and preservation. These approaches give a better understanding of demand and ensure strong marketing for the traditional goods the historic sites offer. These also generate awareness and attract new visitors and focus on encouraging repeated and new visits which are essential sources for long-term survival. Inskeep (1991) rightly describes that proper decision making for planning in urban tourist attractions should include all factors, which affect decision making of the visitors and on the basis of this, the best option should be chosen. In the study of Deng and Dyre (2009), Ngamsomsuke et al. (2009) and Nekooee et al. (2011: ) public opinion have been logically reflected in case of historic/heritage sites. To the best of authors knowledge there is no such study in Bangladesh which can highlight visitors choice priority for any site/buildings of historical importance. The current research mainly focuses on visitors characteristics and preferences for Ahsan Manzil and people s willingness to pay for the attributes offered by this place. Selected socio-economic variables concerned with the tourists are tested for association with the frequency of visit using chi-square. The priority attributes for visitors while choosing the Ahsan Manzil are analyzed using Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP). The determination of various attributes that affects tourists choice of this particular site and their willingness to pay can provide useful basis while setting any fees that might be charged for its use. The results of this study may also have important policy implications in deciding appropriate management and development plan for conservation and preservation of historic sites. Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) and Priority Attributes of Tourists The important thing in attraction-based planning and development is the way in which the criteria such as economic, socio-cultural, infrastructural, environmental, institutional, legal and geographical ones are prioritized (Nekooee et al., 2011:124). Over many multi-criteria assessment methods (i.e. Check List of Criteria, Goal Achievement Matrix, Assessment of Resource Cost, Optimization Technique etc.), the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) has the advantages as its application involves in selection of one alternative from a given set of alternatives, putting a set of alternatives in order from most to least desirable and determining the relative importance or weight of one attribute over another. Based on mathematics and psychology, it was developed by Thomas L. Saaty in the 1970s (Wikipedia, nd.). Rather than prescribing a correct decision, the AHP helps the decision makers to find the one that best suits their needs and understanding about the problem. AHP uses a multi-level hierarchical structure of objectives, criteria, sub-criteria, and alternatives. The pertinent data are derived by using a set of pair-wise comparisons. These comparisons are used to obtain the weights of importance of the decision criteria, and the relative performance measures of the alternatives in terms of each individual decision criterion. If the comparisons are not perfectly consistent, then it provides a mechanism for improving consistency (Triantaphyllou and Mann, 1995: 35-44). AHP adopts the following steps for calculating the priority of each criterion in terms of its contribution to the overall goal. Step 1: Sums values in each column of pair-wise comparison matrix Step 2: Divides each element by its column total (gives normalized pair-wise comparison matrix) Step 3: Computes average of elements in each row (gives estimate of relative priorities of elements being compared) future benefits), bequest value (future use value for future generation), existence value (eg. cultural value). 141 142 Journal of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Vol. 5, December 2012 Let us assume that there are four objectives: a, b, c and d. For these objectives, a pair-wise comparison matrix, A is formed, where A ij denotes the relative importance of A i over A ij on a scale of 1 to /5 1/3 1/7 A = = / /5 1/ The normalized matrix, A below is computed while each value of A is divided by the corresponding column total. A = In the next step, the average value of each row is computed, which gives relative weightage of each objective. Thus, for this example, the weights would be: W = [ ], by construction, W i = 1. Many researchers of different fields use this decision support tool mainly because of its nice mathematical properties and for the fact that the required data are relatively easy to obtain. Some relevant examples to this study context are highlighted in the following paragraphs. Deng and Dyre (2009) found that among cultural/heritage resources of West Virginia, historic sites were evaluated by visitors as the most attractive, followed by festivals and museums, with weights being 0.507, 0.27, and 0.223, respectively. Whereas a study on three historic sites of Thailand for weighting sustainable tourism indicators by Ngamsomsuke et al. (2009) revealed that overall architectural character of any particular location, surroundings and urban design of cultural heritage sites had the highest value equal to as well as tourists attitudes and public awareness issue of possible criminality at the studied sites had the lowest value equal to Nekooee and his colleagues (2011: ) noticed that visitors comfort feeling, site s uniqueness and site s accessibility are the main priority attributes of the tourists of Birjand, a historic city of Iran. Crouch (2007) also conducted a study on the importance and impact of the attributes which shape the competitiveness of tourism destinations using AHP. In this research Visitors Opinion and Preference about Ahsan Manzil, Old Dhaka: An Exploratory Study 143 AHP has been used to calculate the weights of the selected attributes for Ahsan Manzil to determine which factors compelled the visitors most to visit this historical place. Background Information Methodological Issues At the very onset of the current study, authors have gathered some relevant information about the site through a preliminary visit and interviewing the custodians/caretakers of this site. It is found that Ahsan Manzil remains open from Saturday to Wednesday in April-September from am to 5.30 pm, in October-March from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm (also in Friday 3.30 pm pm). It remains closed on Thursday. Nearly 1,200-1,500 people (from home and abroad) visit the site every day. In the weekend (Friday), the usual number of visitors is between 4,000 and 5,000. Each Bangladeshi visitor has to pay only Tk. 2 as entry fee while it is Tk. 50 for a foreigner. The main income source of the Ahsan Manzil is the entry fee and the rents given by the film makers. In the fiscal year , the Ahsan Manzil earned Tk. 1,570,516 from entry tickets, tender, publication and renting of the snacks corner. The management authority spent Tk. 1,090, in the sectors of allowance for over timing/hosting and travelling (of the staffs), public works and conservation. The authors are also informed that Ahsan Manzil authority has to deposit the remaining amount to the bank account of the Bangladesh National Museum and for transferring these amounts the palace authority has to spend an amount from its individual income. The authority received a grant worth Tk. 7,293,792 in the same fiscal year from government of Bangladesh, which was mainly used for salary of its 49 officers and staffs, rent of house; allowance for medical, transport, laundry, snacks, dearness allowance, festival, recreation; income tax, bill of telephone, land tax, municipal tax; bill of water, gas and electricity supply; to buy the instruments, furniture, special exhibition and seminar, salary of security guard and others. Sampling Method A total of 150 randomly selected visitors were interviewed during March to May, 2010 by three surveyors. The focus of the study is to analyze the tourists behavior and it is revealed in earlier studies that higher number of tourists surveyed may lead to more reliable users choice. However, reluctance of visitors to respond to a questionnaire during their leisure visit has compelled the authors to restrict their sample in 150. The surveyors surveyed one week per month to account the variations of the visitors both on weekdays and weekends. In order to accommodate variation in visits in any particular day, the survey was conducted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Only adult persons (minimum 18 years old) were interviewed with a realization that they may give reliable and thoughtful opinion regarding the study. To avoid the problem of multi-purpose trips, visitors were asked about their sole purpose of visit to Ahsan Manzil. If the purpose of a visitor was for recreation then the person was interviewed otherwise discarded from the survey. The next available visitor was interviewed when a visitor had refused to respond during survey. Questionnaire Design and Data Collection The questionnaire designed for this study includes detailed socio-economic characteristics of the visitors (i.e, age, gender, occupation, education level, individual income, household income and so forth). Features regarding usual frequency of visit to the site, mode of transport, total travel time and travel cost to the site, length of stay at the site, preferred season, day and time to visit the site have also been incorporated in the questionnaire. The visitors were asked about the problems faced by them while visiting the site, their maximum willingness to pay for the existing condition of the site. They have also been requested to suggest some improvements that they want to see in the study site. 143 144 Journal of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Vol. 5, December 2012 The attributes (eg. accessibility, architecture of the buildings, museum quality, scenic beauty and landscape, and cultural value) that usually affect visitation of historical sites have been found out through literature review and pilot survey. The questionnaire captures respondents priority on such attributes through pair-wise comparison while selecting Ahsan Manzil on a scale of 1 to 9, where 1 represents equal preference and 9 represents extreme preference. Microsoft Excel 2007 has been used to analyze these data using AHP. The visitors have been offered with a hypothetical improved scenario, which includes better landscape outside the palace, a more organized and rich collection in museum, removing accessibility problem of people through the improvement of the roads toward the palace and tourist bus services, parking facilities, improved toilet facility and an introduction of light and sound show reflecting the cultural value of the site. Based on these improvements, data on visitors maximum willingness to pay as an entrance fee have also been tried to collect. Visitors in Ahsan Manzil This section initially provides a brief description about the visit pattern of respondents in Ahsan Manzil. Later on it highlights how the visit pattern of the visitors is being associated with the different variables. Figure 2 reveals the distribution of visitors according to their usual frequency of visit. About one fourth (24%) of the respondents visits the site monthly. By taking into account the weekly, fortnightly and monthly visit of the respondents it can be said that 40% are regular user of this historic site for recreation. Around 17% of the total visitors have come to visit this heritage site randomly, that means they do not follow any usual pattern while visiting this site. It is noted that no foreign visitors were found during survey period. Source: Field survey, 2010 Fig. 2: Distribution of respondents according to their frequency of visit Quite naturally it is observed that almost half (50.70%) of the respondents prefer weekends to visit this site % respondents do not have any particular preference regarding days of the week for visiting here. Among the total respondents who have visited the Ahsan Manzil, half of them (51%) prefer to visit the place in the afternoon while 36.90% prefer morning time which means number of visitors is 1.5 times more in the afternoon than in the morning. Relation to Socio-Economic Variables At this stage authors are interested to look at whether visit to Ahsan Manzil is associated with socio-economic variables like age, educational background, primary occupation and household s monthly income (in tk.) of the respondent. Table 1 summarizes the association between these variables and frequency of visit. The age, occupation and household s monthly income do not Visitors Opinion and Preference about Ahsan Manzil, Old Dhaka: An Exploratory Study 145 show any significant relationship (P 0.05) with the frequency of visit, though occupation of the respondent shows association at 10% significance level. Only the education of the visitors displays significant relationship, this being at 5% significance level. Table 1: Significant relationship between frequencies of visit with socio-economic characteristics of the visitors Variables P Significance level Age Education Occupation Household s monthly income (tk.) Source: Calculated from the data collected from field survey, 2010 Investigation (Table 2) suggests that more than half (51.7%) of the respondents have higher secondary education and about 49% respondents are student. The figures help to assume that most of the tourists of this site may be the students of the nearby Kabi Nazrul College. Table 2: Distribution of visitors according to their demographic and travel characteristics Characteristics Attributes Percentage Education Below S.S.C. 3 S.S.C. 7 H.S.C 52 Graduate 30 Post Graduate 8 Total 100 Occupation Service 22 Business 17 Student 49 House wife 9 Unemployed 1 Total 100 Total Cost Involved (tk.) above Total 100 Transport Mode Walking 146 Journal of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Vol. 5, December 2012 Rickshaw 47 CNG/ auto rickshaw 3 Bus 6 Boat 6 Private car 5 Dual mode of transport 17 Total 100 Travel Time (min.) Source: Field survey, Total 100 Relation to Total Cost Involved, Transport Mode and Travel Time A quick perusal of Table 2 highlights that 20% of the total respondents pays only Tk. 2 for visiting the Nawab s palace, which indicates that these people may be the residents of the surrounding areas who come to
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