A remote village in Moulvibazar has become the centre of attraction as an eco-friendly tourist spot.
With its steadily growing global reputation, the greenery of the village, Radhanagar, is now a desired destination for tourists seeking the soothing solitude in nature as a respite from the chaotic urban life.
The village, situated five kilometres away from Sreemangal town, stays awake round-the-clock with the hustle and bustle of at least 500 tourists staying in the village every day, according to people concerned.
Tourists come here to experience the absolute seclusion of nature as the rooms of the resorts and cottages of the village do not have the modern technological facilities like AC, TV and fridge.
To accommodate a huge number of tourists coming every day, 25 resorts and eco-cottages, around 50 restaurants and two star-studded hotels, a five-star and a three-star, have already sprung up in the village situated at Sreemangal upazila of the district, said sources involved in the village's tourism industry.
They said at least 25 more eco-friendly resorts and cottages are in the offing as an increasing number of investors from different parts of the country are thronging the tourism-centric village, investing around Tk200 crore in total in hotel and restaurant businesses.
The Grand Sultan, a five-star hotel, stands erect at the entrance of the village. After this hotel, one after another eco-friendly resorts and cottages are scattered all over the village, offering rooms with rents ranging from Tk1,000 to Tk50,000.
Around Tk1 crore is being transacted in this village every day, they said, adding after the tea industry, tourism is the most promising and safest sector for investment in the region.
They said tourism-oriented businesses in the village have generated at least 1,000 jobs.
The price of land in Radhanagar has increased by 50 times in the last 10 years.
Radhanagar achieved global recognition through the publication of an illustrated report on globally-reputed British magazine The Economist in May, 2019.
The Shanti Bari eco-cottage, established in the village in 2015, is hugely popular at home and abroad as it has introduced a new way of tourism.
Tanvirul Arefin Lincoln, founder and CEO of Shanti Bari, said, "We provide accommodation for 30 people in our 100% eco-friendly cottage.
"Through our hard work over the last few years, we have succeeded in convincing the tourists that they can survive without ACs or televisions."
Sajal Das, director of Amar Bari resort, said, "The environment of Radhanagar village is tourism-friendly. So, I took out Tk2 crore in bank loan and invested in the tourism sector here a few years ago. Now I am getting returns."
For Fridays and Saturdays, rooms at many resorts get booked one month earlier, he added.
Talking to local people, it is learned that tourism business started flourishing in the village in 2010 and it gained momentum by 2015.
Shamsul Haque, general secretary of Sreemangal Parjatan Seba Sangstha, first built an eco-cottage in the village 14 years ago. He said, "Once I had a lemon orchard in this village. But with the gradual improvement of tourism, I realised that business in this sector can be profitable. So, experimentally, I built a single-room eco-cottage inside my lemon orchard in 2007.
After getting a response beyond imagination, Shamsul built three more cottages on his land. In 2018, he and another person jointly invested Tk35 lakh to build five more cottages.
Their financial success has created employment, directly and indirectly, for 30 people and their cottages are now the source of livelihood for at least 200 people, including drivers and tour guides.
After being attracted to eco-tourism, Russell Alam received training and started his professional tourist guide career in 2005. Within a few days, his income increased by several times, earning TK30,000-40,000 per month during the peak season.
"I personally know at least 15 guides whose economic situation has drastically improved by tourism," he said.
With investment increasing day by day, the price of land in the village is also increasing a lot.
Biswajit Dev Barma, a local UP member, said, "Only 10-15 years ago, the price of land here was Tk10,000-15,000 per decimal, which has jumped to Tk5-6 lakh at some places.
At present, new businesses are being created targeting the tourists.
Restaurants offering a wide range of local and foreign cuisines are being set up to appease the taste of tourists coming from different continents.
Besides numerous shops, offering handicraft items and tea leaves, the main industrial product of the region, have sprung up beside every road of the village targeting the tourists.
Nazrul Islam, upazila nirbahi officer of Sreemangal, said in order to develop tourism and integrate rural productive sectors with tourism, the government is working on the concept of "tourism in rural development".
In this case, Radhanagar village is a shining example of how tourism can change the socio-economic condition of a village. This village is also a perfect example of eco-tourism."
He said they were paying special importance to the development of tourism in this village.
He went on to say tourists can walk here day and night safely. Even though it is a village, there is no record of any untoward incident in the last five years which proves how tourist-friendly this place is.
"With new investments coming, we are also aware that the nature of the environment should not be ruined in any way. All the surrounding areas including the upazila town of Sreemangal are getting the economic benefits of the tourism sector of Radhanagar," he added.