Unrest in the Chattogram Hill Tracts had long been a big concern for tourism in Rangamati. Besides, local people were against tourism as they feared their culture would perish due to its socio-economic impacts.
But the situation started to improve in the wake of the peace deal signed in 1997 between the government and the local political organisations. Now, young people of the area have taken tourism seriously to change their economic condition and preserve their local culture at the same time.
At least 10 small and large resorts have already been set up in Rangamati in recent years. They have also formed Rangamati Resort Association this month with a nine-member committee.
Not only resort, young entrepreneurs are also investing in houseboats in Kaptai Lake to attract tourists.
Dipanjan Dewan, entrepreneur of Rangamati's first houseboat, Promodini, told The Business Standard, "No one can brand tourism of Rangamati like we have done because we are from this area. That's why we have come up with the concept of houseboat as in India's Kashmir and Kerala. Many people are appreciating us."
Ajay Chakma, director of a houseboat named Maoroom, said, "We started the houseboat considering the potential of the Kaptai. I think if this potential is utilised properly, it will have a huge positive impact on tourism in the region."
Raina Tugun is the largest eco-resort in Rangamati. Covering an area of about 25 acres, the resort has a huge array of local and foreign flowers, fruits and medicinal plants to attract tourists.
Lalit C Chakma, owner of the resort, said, "Many local people are coming forward upholding their culture and heritage to promote tourism in this area. This is a sign of hope. Now we need true and effective government support and long-term planning."
Bappi Tangchangya, owner of Bargee Resort which started its journey on 17 October this year, said, "The main reason the new generation is taking tourism seriously is to adapt to the time. However, we need licence for local and foreign liquor to entertain the tourists. We also need easy bank loans."
Entrepreneurs say they are facing problems as they do not have enough investment. They mentioned that banks are not interested in providing loans in this sector.
Shoaib Rana, manager of IFIC Bank, Rangamati branch, told The Business Standard, "We have no option to provide loan for tourism. At present, we can lend against lands with legal documents. If Bangladesh Bank gives any special instructions keeping tourism in mind and we are instructed by our head office, we can help for the investment of this sector."
Sumit Chakma, general secretary of Rangamati Resort Association, said, "There is a huge potential of tourism in Rangamati. But we have to keep in mind our local culture. However, young entrepreneurs are quite aware of these issues. We urge the government to stand by the entrepreneurs and play a vital role in making Rangamati a tourist destination."