Thanchi: A rising star of Community-Based Tourism

September 4, 2022

By Ramiz Uddin, Head of Experimentation, Accelerator Lab, UNDP, Bangladesh: Sohara Mehroze Shachi, Head of Solutions Mapping, Accelerator Lab, UNDP, Bangladesh: M M Zimran Khan, Head of Exploration, Accelerator Lab, UNDP, Bangladesh: Mayeda Tanha Bidushy, Communications & Reporting Officer, Accelerator Lab

Thanchi, a sub district of Bandarban Hill-district of Bangladesh, is becoming immensely popular among young people for adventure tourism. Consequently, sustainable community development through tourism as well as

conservation of natural and cultural assets of this region is becoming critical. Community-based tourism (CBT) is often appreciated as an effective pathway to conserve the nature and to create alternative livelihood opportunities for the local people.

Community-based tourism in Thanchi can generate employment opportunities in informal sector for both the indigenous as well as the Bengali communities. CBT can also be an effective pathway to conserve natural habitats and biodiversity as well as local culture since it unlocks varieties of livelihood options to the local communities in sustainable tourism businesses rather than extracting natural and other resources.

In this context, community-based tourism with a focus on small-scale, locally designed and operated activities that benefit tourists and the local tourism businesses along with the environment can be a part of strategy for sustainable tourism development with employment generation at the community level.

If a sufficient proportion of people are employed, there may be a social change and the conservation of the forests and natural valuable resources may be initiated and facilitated.


Some people from the indigenous community are now working as tour guides.  Their families used to depend on “Jhum” cultivation i.e., slash and burn cultivation which was inadequate to support them financially. Working as tour guides is providing them an additional source of income, with almost 40% of the local indigenous people now directly depending on tourism. With the development of tourism, urbanization in their areas has now increased and their socio-economic condition has improved. Recently some hotels have been constructed in Thanchi Bazar. Due to urbanization in the area, the occupation of the indigenous people has also changed. Around one member from each family is working as a tourist guide. For the safety of the tourists, the guides have to register themselves with the local government (UNO) office. The rate for the guides is also fixed.

In addition to being guides, there are a variety of employment opportunities related to tourism- some people are working as tourist vehicle drivers (locally called Chander Gari), some are renting boats to the tourists, and some are involved in hotel and restaurant business. Many people are also involved in photography, and this is a great income source for them.
Every family is now somehow involved with tourism, and they are no longer dependent on Jhum cultivation alone. With the development of tourism, now the local people have schools for their children where education is being provided in their native languages. The agriculture-based economy of Thanchi has now transformed into a tourism-based economy. The living standards of the area has also improved. According to UNO office Thanchi, there is no beggar in the area. Everybody has a job to run his or her family.

However, while urbanization and tourism may improve their economic status, their culture is also being affected as a huge number of tourists are visiting these areas and exchange of cultural attributes are obvious here. Winning the hearts and minds of people living in the hills is important to eliminate any sort of extreme political ideas that might have taken root since CHT has a volatile political past.

Creating an environment which allows the locals to reap the benefit of growing domestic tourism industry can be a good start. But lack of knowledge amongst the relevant stakeholders regarding sustainable tourism development is a challenge.  To address these issues, training must be provided to tour guides as the tourists to ensure adequate employment generation, as well as safeguarding the indigenous people’s culture and the environment.

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