When people become weary of living a monotonous life in the concrete city, they prefer to spend some time, especially during the weekends, amid natural serenity. As cities become more crowded and polluted, peoples' demand for breathing space also increases.
This demand has led to development of a robust resort industry in Bangladesh in the last decade. The growing economy of the country and the rising purchasing power of consumers have made the industry commercially viable.
According to the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC), around 200 resorts have been built across the country especially in the surrounding areas of the capital like Gazipur, Narayanganj and Narsingdi.
Some of the resorts have luxurious facilities similar to that of five-star hotels which attract not only the rich domestic tourists, but also the foreigners.
According to BPC officials, the total market size of the resort industry is around Tk3,000 crore.
"The middle-class people now have sufficient money to spend on travelling. Travelling has become a regular event during vacations. During the weekends, people also visit the nearest resorts in Gazipur, Manikganj, Munshiganj and Narayanganj," said Toufiq Uddin Ahmed, former president of the Tour Operator Association of Bangladesh.
"Most of the resorts are built on 10-100 bighas of land," he added.
The number of domestic tourists has been rising in the country every year. They mostly travel to different tourist spots around the country. But the people who love the luxury of resorts prefer places closer to the capital.
"The number of domestic tourists in Bangladesh is around 90-95 lakh per year. Many of the city dwellers go for 'day tours' to the nearest resorts," said Ziaul Haque Howlader, manager (Public Relations and Marketing) of Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation.
According to the Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB), the number of foreign travellers has also been increasing in the last five years. And some foreign tourists also visit the resorts.
Khabir Uddin Ahmed, president of Tourism Resort Industries Association of Bangladesh (Triab), said, "The resort industry started to develop from 2010. I started the Arunima Resort and Golf Club in Narail in 2009. We have both foreign and local guests."
"Now we have only 23 members of Triab. But in the last few months many others contacted us for membership," he added.
Gazipur: A resort hub
The natural beauty and location have become a blessing to Gazipur as the district alone hosts more than 100 resorts.
"The number of registered resorts in Gazipur is 76. But there are many other unregistered ones," said SM Tariqul Islam, deputy commissioner (DC) of Gazipur.
"We have given directives to all the Upazila Nirbahi Officers of the district to collect the information of unregistered resorts," he added.
Md Abu Nasar Uddin, an additional deputy commissioner of the district, said, "There is no data about the number of total resorts in Gazipur. I think the number is not less than 100.
"The number is increasing. Some owners hide the information of their resorts. Sometimes they claim that the resorts are their own homes. We are developing a resort management software. Then a survey will be conducted," he added.
Resort owners said corporate groups, professionals and couples are their main guests.
The resorts offer different packages to attract tourists. The cost of a day tour varies from Tk1,500-5,000 per person while overnight stay is more expensive.
"I have visited 12 resorts in Gazipur. Their services are not bad. But it is slightly more expensive than other countries," said Abdullah Hasan, a tourist.
Nokkhottrobari and Sarah are the two renowned resorts of Gazipur located in the Bangal Para, Sreepur.
Nokkhottrobari is the project of popular actor Tauquir Ahmed and his wife Bipasha Hayat.
The resort is built on 25 bighas of land and commenced its journey on December 16, 2011.
The main feature of this resort is its 11 cottages, called water bungalows, on a pond made of wood and bamboo.
"As a travel enthusiast, I have visited many countries in the world. I felt the necessity of a decorated natural atmosphere near Dhaka which will relieve people from their tedious urban life. Although I am one of the pioneers in the resort industry in Gazipur, now many people are building resorts here," said Tauqir Ahmed, managing director of Nokkhottrobari Resort.
The Sarah resort is a venture of Fortis Group.
Md Ismail Hossain, public relations manager (Sales and Marketing) of Sarah, said, "Winter is our peak season for business. People come here on different occasions too.
Arman Khan, assistant general manager of renowned Grand Sultan Tea Resort & Golf at Sreemangal in Moulvibazar, said they had a good number of guests this season compared to the previous year.
The booming resort industry in Gazipur has lead to a positive impact on the local community. Many people have been employed in different resorts. Some have been supplying vegetables to the nearest resorts.
"Many people of our village are working in the resorts," said Kawsar Ahmed, a poultry farmer of Rajabari village, Sreepur.
"We try to hire local people. But the service of the resort depends on many specialised jobs. That is why we cannot supply jobs to them regularly," said a resort owner.
Features of luxury resorts
According to the Bangladesh Hotel and Restaurant Policy 2016, a five-star resort must have 46 facilities and services, including a minimum of 50 rooms, three picnic spots, amusement parks, indoor and outdoor sports facilities, a banquet hall with a minimum of 200 seats, two dining halls and one restaurant, three meeting rooms, and a day tour facility.
Besides, a four-star resort must have at least 40 rooms, a three-star resort must have 30 rooms, two-star must have 15 rooms and one-star resorts must have 10 rooms.
"According to the policy, five, four and three-star resorts have to be registered from the civil aviation and tourism ministry. One-star and two-star resorts have to be registered by the deputy commissioner," said Zahid Hossain, assistant controller of hotel and restaurant cells, aviation and tourism ministry.
"However, the determination of star categories does not apply for resorts in the country now. It is still under process," he added.