Sir Frank Peters
May 16, 2016: 2019 is the year that marks the centenary birth of Bangabandhu, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and Father of the Nation.
No doubt this indelibly marks the year as one of great significance and enormous importance to all Bangladeshis… but it can be much more.
It offers Bangladesh countless opportunities to compete with 'the big boys' in the game of tourism, kick-start an ongoing, ever increasing, and immensely rewarding tourism industry and substantially generate untold business opportunities at relatively low cost.
I propose, for the greater benefit of Bangladesh, that the Government gives immediate consideration to capitalizing on the unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that 2019 has to offer.
Why immediate? Because time is of the essence, short, and much planning is needed. I would also propose that in 2019 Bangladesh be given the theme 'Bangabandu 100', and for 100 days, in tribute to the Father of the Nation and to catch world attention that Bangladesh itself be renamed Bangabandhu (for 100 days), complete with its own flag, anthem.
I would like to propose nationalism and the love for Bangladesh itself become foremost thoughts in the minds of all in differences including political to show the nation unites in an atmosphere of song, dance, fun, and enjoyment during the 100 days to welcome the world.
I envisage Bangabandu 100 not only to promote and attract tourists to Bangladesh from all over the world, but also unite the nation in a common cause for the benefit of all, individually and collectively.
In 2019 Bangladesh should be the place for the world to be and for all Bangladeshis, at home and abroad, to contribute in making it so.
To grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, work needs to begin on 'Bangabandhu 100' immediately. It requires extensive planning, the co-operation of many companies, organizations, international airlines, Media (TV, Radio and Press) and individuals both here and overseas to maximize its potential.
A 'Bangabandhu 100' committee needs to be formed without delay to arrange oversee, and promote events with a ring-fenced budget.
To chair this, I propose Sajib Wazed (Joy), son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and grandson of Bangabandu. I'm sure Joy would put his heart and soul effort to make it successful.
I have taken the liberty to begin the 'melting pot' of ideas process for consideration by the Bangabandhu 100 committee, but, no doubt, there will be countless more far superior ideas and concepts forthcoming once the creative juices of Bangladeshi talent start flowing. This is an opportunity to showcase Bangladesh talent and goods to the world.
These ideas (in no particular order of importance) are:
* Bangladesh is re-named 'Bangabandhu' (for 100-days). Welcome to Bangabandu!
* Special international soccer and cricket tournaments are held on Bangladeshi soil with substantial prizes.
* Every tourist be made an honorary citizen of Bangabandu for its 100-days existence and given a numbered diploma upon their arrival certifying this.
* That each day the certificate numbers are entered into a draw and prizes are awarded, which are picked-up by the visitors on their departure.
* At the end of the 100-days promotion, a draw takes place in which, say, ten lucky winners receive an airline ticket for two … courtesy of the airline on which they arrived.
* Luminaries from the worlds of sports, entertainment and literary circles, especially overseas, are appointed Goodwill Ambassadors for 2019.
* International publicity creating events can include a Guinness Book of Records attempt for each (and every one) of the 100-days (a record in itself), such as the largest number of Hafiz boys in the world gathered at one location reciting the Quran from memory. Other events can include spectacular displays and demonstrations by the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, Rab, et cetera.
* Through national media involvement, a national competition to determine the best Adjan speaker/presenter.
* Trade Fairs comprising of miscellaneous quality Bangladeshi products.
* A party atmosphere of cordiality, friendliness and co-operation is created at all Bangladeshi international airports.
* Fast-Track Visa-on-Arrival applications by applicants applying on-line and avoiding long slow-moving queues at arrival.
* Modernize Special Branch Police Immigration procedures and provide all officers (the first goodwill ambassadors of the nation encountered by visitors) with tourist-friendly training. A smile and a friendly greeting never go unnoticed. (Some are great as it is, I hasten to add!)
* A 2019 special commemorative visa of Bangabandhu design.
* Tourists are given 100-day visas (at no extra charge) during the Bangabandhu 100 celebration period.
* At all airports, ensure all goods in the Duty Free stores are transparent, clean, individually priced, and not open to scams and abuse by unscrupulous employees, as they are at present and giving Bangladesh a bad image.
* A competition to design a flag for Bangabandhu (country) and a national anthem.
* Special souvenirs/promotional items of Bangabandhu (country) made under license.
* All airlines that service Bangladesh, including Biman, to offer special discounted attractive fares during the 100-day celebration and feature Bangladesh in its onboard entertainment and inflight magazines.
* All hotels to offer special packages to overseas tourists.
* The government issues commemorative sets of stamps, currency notes and coins et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Go… Go… Go… Bangladesh!
(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and a respected foreign non-political friend of Bangladesh)