SRIMANGAL: The economy of the upazila is now entirely dependent on tourism. Over the last 22 years, tourism has become the focal force to progress of its economy.
During the last two decades, tourism has emerged as the focal force of the economy in Srimangal upazila of Moulvibazar.By virtue of its good rail connectivity, the upazila was once one of the commercial areas of the district. Traders of the district town would buy goods from Srimangal wholesale market, making it a lucrative area for business.
But with the improvement of communication in other areas since the 1980s, Srimangal lost much of this privilege. Again, the picture started to change with the onset of the present century. The economy of the upazila is now entirely dependent on tourism. Over the last 22 years.
According to the upazila administration’s most recent survey, 4,000 tourists visit the upazila every day.
Besides tea gardens, locals were once involved in pineapple and lemon gardens; now, however, many are shifting to the tourism business, which has recently boomed, creating employment opportunities for thousands of people.
Shamsul Haque of village Radhanagar of the upazila had set up a grocery store and established a lemon orchard. But with Srimangal tourism prospering day by day, he realised that business in this sector can be much more profitable.
In 2006, he built a single room eco cottage inside the lemon garden on an experimental basis. With the outcome exceeding expectations, he built three more cottages. In 2015, he invested Tk 30 akh in a joint venture, building five more cottages.He has created employment for 25ersons. Around 200 people, including drivers and tour guides, are dependent on these cottages for their livelihood.
Though he was unable to make a large investment like Shamsul Haque, tourism has also transformed Russel Alam’s life.
Russel was a private tutor during his student days. Eco tourism piqued his interest in 2005. He soon trained to become a professional tour guide. His income multiplied within a few days.
At present, during peak season, he earns Tk 35,000-45,000 per month. Russell said tourism has brought economic prosperity to at least 15 guides.
Other tourist-centric businesses have also sprung up. On their way back home, tourists buy tea leaves from Srimangal, famous for its tea.
In the last two years, there has been a manifold increase in the number of shops selling tea leaves.
Rows of tea leaf shops can be seen at several spots of the upazila, including Station Road and Bhanugachha Road. Despite there being so many tea leaf shops, all are doing business, selling tea leaves to tourists.
Saiful Islam, manager of Fahim Enterprise, said there are at least 250 tea leaf shops in Srimangal, both legal and illegal, and they are mainly frequented by tourists. Several thousand people benefit from these 250 shops, either directly or indirectly. Those who ran various small ventures are now interested in the tea leaf business.
ASM Yahya, president of Srimangal Traders Association, said, “We have more than 2,000 registered traders in our association, all of whom are benefiting from tourism in one way or another. Tourists are the driving force behind the local economy. When a tourist pays Tk 50 to a rickshaw driver, the driver then spends Tk 10 from that income at the local tea stall.”