The Amazing Thailand" and "Incredible India," are two good examples of how to promote a country internationally to improve its image despite poverty, hunger, political upheavals and economic problems.
The last military-backed civilian government perhaps wanted to improve the image of the country by following the above examples. So, it constituted a small committee of intellectuals which recommended a slogan, "Beautiful Bangladesh," for use by the private sector, tourism stakeholders and the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC), then known as the National Tourism Organization (NTO). The slogan was launched through a high-profile programme, but it did not click because there was nothing to click in the slogan. Every country is beautiful to its own beholders but a foreigner is not beholden to any country without reason.
A new organisation by the name of Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) has now been established by the government and it operates as the National Tourism Organization. The BTB has launched a website to promote the touristic image of the country.
The BPC is now looking after the commercial tourist undertakings (www.parjatan.gov.bd). I have consulted this website. It is free from personal information provided by the BTB website. But both these websites have miserably failed to portray the history of the country. The Parjatan website, in its overview section, describes the history of the country from 13th Century onward. The BTB website, cryptic and miserly, starts the history from December 16, 1971.
The history of Bangladesh did not begin from the 13th Century. The land now called Bangladesh has rich history which is 5,000 years old. Sufi Mustafizur Rahman of the Archaeology Department of Jahangir Nagar University, through his excavations at Wari Bateshwar, and Tim Steel, a British National now working with a private tour operation organisation, have brought to light a gold mine of information concerning the heritage of Bangladesh, which is supported by Wikipedia, a global website which says: "Gangaridai (Ganga Rashtra in Sanskrit, meaning nation on the River Ganges) was an ancient state found around 300 BC where the Bengal region lies today (present-day Bangladesh and West Bengal state in India). It was described by the Greek traveller Megasthenes in his work Indica. Greek and Latin historians suggested that Alexander the Great withdrew from India, anticipating the valiant joint counterattack of the mighty Gangaridai and Prasii (Nanda) Empires, the latter located in central Bihar."
It is strange how, in these days of information highways, the websites of the BPC and the BTB missed an opportunity to highlight the above history of Bangladesh, which has a background of thousands of years of trade and tourism.
The personal information should be withdrawn from the website of BTB and correct information about the history of the country should be put in national interest. Distortion of the national history is an offence, I think.
The writer is Editor, The Travel World.
The Daily Star, 10 August 2012