The Base Camp Bangladesh: Next level in tourism
Located in Gojariapara, Gazipur, The Base Camp Bangladesh is the first campground of the country offering different adrenaline pumping activities, with the tagline “Unleash your inner tiger”.
If you are tired of the city life, The Base Camp Bangladesh would be the ideal place to go for a retreat.
It offers outdoor activities, expeditions and adventure to make you feel closer to nature. At the same time, it gives you the chance to become more active.
What makes Base Camp stand out from other eco resorts is their various activities like zip-lining, tree-top activities, tyre run, brain teasers like treasure hunt, swimming etc with a set of very skilled and amiable trainers who are always there to help the campers.
This correspondent spoke with Tamzid Siddiq Spondon, managing director of The Base Camp Bangladesh at his office in Karwan Bazar.
"We felt that our children were deprived of the environment in which we grew up in. After researching on the history and culture of this sub-continent, I realised that people of this area suffer from lack of confidence," said Spondon, once a scout, describing how he and his other five partners came up with the idea and started their venture in 2015.
"It is not possible to transform a man completely but we believe that everyone has potential and they can do anything if they want. That is why 'Unleash your inner tiger' is our tagline," explained Spondon.
During the pandemic, the swimming pool is accessible to individual families only, on a private arrangement.
Group intakes have been limited to ensure social distancing.
While individual activities are still being operated, group activities are not in operation.
The Base Camp has been getting high attention from the clients – from school goers to the elderly.
During peak seasons, more than 80 percent of it is occupied, including weekdays.
At the moment, they are taking reservations on a limited scale.
As soon as campers enter the premises, their temperature is checked and they are provided with masks and gloves.
Multiple sanitisation stations have been installed throughout the camp.
Special focus is given to staff hygiene and cleanliness, all staff members wear masks, gloves and goggles.
They also have to go through strict screenings every day to ensure they are not showing any symptoms.
Spondon and his partners expanded their ideas with two more resorts in 2018 – NeoCampers situated at Savar and Munlai (middle area) at Bandarban.
NeoCampers is more community based, unlike Base Camp which is more self-centric.
While Base Camp offers adrenaline-rush activities, campers have to live in safari tents in NeoCampers while doing carpentry, pottery, meditation etc.
Munlai offers a whole different scenario.
Spondon and his team partnered with the Bawm tribe living in the Hill Tracts and some houses have been transformed to homestay with modern facilities like water supply and electricity.
"Generally other resorts go and uproot ethnic communities from their land but we are actually working with them. They even get 50 percent of the revenue we earn," says Spondon.
Currently, NeoCampers is operating following the same guidelines as Base Camp.
Munlai is still restricted, but will open soon as movement restriction in the area is scheduled to be lifted later this month.
Campers have to book everything including camp, food, trained guides, and activities they will participate prior to going to the camps.
Depending on the duration of stay each person has to pay from Tk2700 to Tk9000. People often go solo without participating in any activities just to relax.
Base camp offers day trips and night outs and people can camp for one to seven days.
NeoCampers offers up to five-day stay while in Munlai one can stay for 15 days.
The maximum number of guests allowed has been reduced to maintain social distance.
If a single group size is more than 20, then other groups are not booked on the same dates.
Challenges Base Camp faces in tourism
Spondon and his partners started their venture with an ambition to change the tourism landscape of Bangladesh.
"Bangladesh lacks tourism ecosystem. Everyone is on their own. Other countries have links among hotels, transports, amusement parks, tour guides, travel operators etc, but we do not," said Spondon.
"Still, we have enough potential to become one of the tourist hubs in this region," he said confidently.
"We do not own any land, we just convert and operate there. We have been very successful in the last five years," he added.
According to Spondon, sometimes people invest in tourism without doing any business calculation or financial modelling.
Bangladesh's tourism market is not yet ready for big investments. It is often heard that people are investing Tk100-300 crore, which is not feasible.
Spondon advises new investors that if they want to invest around the capital, they should not invest more than Tk15 crore.
Bangladesh has only Cox's Bazar which runs year-round as a tourist spot but others are seasonal.
So, if investors begin working on projects without calculating properly, this can be disastrous for them.
"Tourism ecosystem has various revenue heads like rooms, food, conference rooms, activities etc. It is impossible to recover the investment with the present tourism ecosystem in Bangladesh. Everything is expensive in our country than abroad, which is why we have to be expensive too," he said.
He added, "Yet the resorts cannot increase our revenues. That is why it takes time to reach the break-even point. Bangladesh also does not have as many foreign tourists as neighbouring countries do. We have to mainly depend on domestic tourists."
Base Camp is planning to expand further with building one resort every year and has its eyes on Cox's Bazar, Shrimangal, and Rangamati. It has also been working with government in various projects and has tourism agencies under them.
Apart from providing physical and mental activities for the routine bound people, Base Camp has succeeded in strengthening the bonding between the campers while taking part as groups.
The pandemic has impacted Base Camp as much as other businesses, if not more.
However, the camp authority is confident of overcoming this difficult period and will soon be on track for their future projects.
The photos were provided by Base Camp authorities