- “The Ministry has now set an ambitious target of USD 3 Trillion tourism economy by 2047. The key contributors to this goal are Heritage & Culture, MICE, and Adventure. Adventure has the potential to drive upto 20% growth of the whole sector.” – Rakesh Kumar Verma
- “We are still not able to harness the huge potential of adventure tourism in the country. If we want to promote good tourism, we need to have good infrastructure and strong communication.” – Pema Khandu
- “According to Forbes list, India is the 7th most beautiful country, I think they are wrong. India is possibly the most beautiful country in the world. And if we are the most beautiful country in this world, we need to increase the percentage of what adventure and tourism contribute to GDP.” – Rakesh Kapoor
- “India has everything, with 73% of the Himalayan range, 7000 km coastline, we are one of world’s biodiversity hotspots with every conceivable geographical terrain, and we have the potential of 50 Switzerlands in India itself.” – Ajeet Bajaj
- “Adventure is the only segment of the travel industry which brings socio-economic benefits to the far-away regions of the country. It is all about positioning and marketing, unfortunately, we have not done much to push this segment” – Tejbir Singh Anand
Beyond a doubt, India’s vast and diverse landscapes hold immense potential for adventure tourism, yet there lies a question mark on how the world is exponentially exploring these natural wonders. From the majestic Himalayas to the pristine beaches, the country offers a myriad of possibilities for thrilling experiences that are yet to be showcased on a global magnitude. It’s time that the global audience delve into the treasure and discover India’s true adventure tourism potential.
According to Ajeet Bajaj, President, ATOAI, “Just before pandemic, according to global projections, adventure tourism was estimated to be a trillion-dollar industry by 2024. And we feel our country India has everything, with 73% of the Himalayan range, 7000 km coastline, we are one of world’s biodiversity hotspots with every conceivable geographical terrain, and we have the potential of 50 Switzerlands in India itself. The World Economic Forum ranks our natural heritage as amongst the 10 best in the world.”
As we talk about India’s ‘Amrit kaal’ bringing fortune to the nation in all spheres by nurturing new possibilities, we simply can’t deny the role of adventure tourism being significant in the area of driving massive foreign tourist arrivals and foreign exchange earnings. Adventure tourism is mostly developed in remote or underdeveloped areas that lack infrastructure and economic opportunities. Through adventure tourism, these areas would be capable to attract investment for infrastructure development and tourism-related projects, thereby providing economic opportunities for the local communities.
US$ 600 Billion Future
Rakesh Kumar Verma, IAS, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India, at the ATOAI’s 15th Annual Convention stated that the first area of work is to positioning adventure tourism, as we have it all to make our country emerge as a great player in the sphere of Adventure. And if we are to focus in adventure tourism, it needs to be inclusive, responsible and sustainable. The Ministry has now set an ambitious target of USD 3 Trillion tourism economy by 2047. The key contributors to this goal are Heritage & Culture, MICE, and Adventure. “Adventure has the potential to drive upto 20% growth of the whole sector. We are expecting 20 million international tourist arrivals focussed on adventure out of 100 million overall arrivals; foreign exchange earning of USD 80 Billion out of overall USD 400 Billion; high domestic visits of 4 Billion out of 20 Billion; and thus propel the sector towards contributing a 600 USD by 2047”, Verma added.
The Ministry of Tourism thus unveils ‘Viksit Bharat@2024-Making India a Global Adventure Hub’, that defines the National Strategy for Adventure Tourism (NSAT). This is curated for a safe and responsible expansion of adventure tourism sector with 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The strategy is based on key strategic pillars that addresses most of issues which were hindering the growth of the sector, which are: a) State assessment, ranking and strategy; b) Skills, capacity building and certification; c) Marketing and promotion; d) Strengthening adventure tourism safety management framework; e) National and state level rescue and communication grid; f) Destination and product Development; g) Governance and Institutional Framework.
In terms of the first pillar, the Ministry looks to increase competitiveness and encourage the states to actively develop and promote adventure tourism. A capacity building exercise needs to be followed to encourage mutual learning, mentioned Verma. In this phase, MoT is to provide support to the states in policy formulation and implementation. A ranking and classification approach will be followed where states shall be identified as Leaders, Aspiring Leaders and Emerging States. The 9 pillars for ranking the states are – Adventure Tourism Policy; Safety Guidelines and Regulations; Mapping of Adventure Sites (Land, Air and Water); Presence of Registration Process for Adventure Activity Service Providers; Infrastructure Development in and Around Adventure Tourism Sites; Marketing and Promotion; Community involvement in Adventure Activities Sites; Training Institutes; and Responsible Behavior in Adventure Tourism.
In the second head under NSAT, the functions identified are – skill development of adventure activity service providers; skill training and capacity building of local communities; training and certification of adventure tour guides; establishing national and state resource centres; and providing certification for adventure activity service providers. MoT is sculpting the National Skill Development Plan for adventure tourism focusing on four major components: Managerial courses, Skill based operational course, Instructor certification course, and Entrepreneurial courses. MoT is looking at getting registration of all tourism service providers on NIDHI plus portal, followed by recognition, approval and classification on NIDHI Plus, as according to Verma, unless the sector becomes formal, it is very difficult to recognize and support.
The way forward is to also to power the sector with the ‘Travel for Life’ certification on NIDHI plus and alongside Special Adventure Tourism Guides program to be launched under IITFC program. The stakeholders can achieve different levels according to their sustainable practices under the TFL, where the first stage is the signup where one enterprise can voluntarily take commitment, followed by an evidence-based stage involving auditing assistance and certification.
The third head, Marketing and Promotion, involves creating a sub brand under Incredible India by MoT and form a dedicated promotional campaign for adventure tourism. The idea, mentioned by Verma, is to launch state specific, destination specific campaigns as well as campaigns for responsible travelers. The way forward is where MoT looks at organizing ATTA Adventure Next in India. Besides, MoT has engaged brand strategy and design agency for Incredible India, which will also help in promoting adventure tourism. MoT is also looking at launching nation wise ‘Best Adventure Tourism Destination Competition’ which will highlight the destinations that are doing good in the sphere.
The fourth head, would mainly underline the need for national adventure tourism safety management framework, as MoT understands the importance of a legal framework required to enforce the measures, which will minimize and mitigate the risk involved in adventure tourism. Therefore, the Model Adventure Tourism Safety Law Act has been prepared for the guidance of the states and operators. The core function is to identify key objectives of safety framework, formulate guiding principles as well as strategic elements.
The salient features of the safety law imply setting up of State Adventure Tourism Regulatory Authority and conduct safety audit of adventure activity operator. This function underlines the requirement for adventure activity operators to pass a safety audit and registration of adventure activity operator, and also restrict providing adventure activity unless registered. Another feature is the recognition and functions of safety auditors and formulating the conditions of recognition. Besides, the law involves registration of adventure activity operator, publication of safety audit standards, define penalties, and possess the power to make regulations.
Regarding National and State level rescue grid, Verma informed that MoT is in process of forming Adventure Tourism Rescue Centre (ATRC). There are guidelines being formed to set up ATRCs around activity areas with objectives around infrastructure, manpower and SOPs. MoT has approached National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for further consultation and post the same shall draft the scheme for funding and setting up of ATRCs. The role of ATRCs would be to act as focal point for rescue and recovery, coordination, liaison etc; remain in full readiness till the conclusion of each trip; liaison and coordinate with various bodies; maintain emergency contact details; record and maintain round the clock communication; report the emergency/incident to the local police/ authorities; maintain daily weather report of the location; and record all reported incidents in the prescribed format.
For Destination and Product Development, Verma announces MoT is focused on identification of destinations, profiling and prioritization, followed by development of prioritized destinations. Besides, MoT is also looking at implementation of developmental plans in accordance with private sector partnership in adventure tourism, boost the existence of homestay and community lodges.
Another major step mentioned by Verma is the development of 5 mega adventure tourism trails. Based on discussion with Industry, National Board of Adventure Tourism has recommended to develop two mega trails in first phase: The Ganga Nature & Heritage Trail (Trail running along the Ganga River from its source at Gaumukh till Ganga Sagar, approx. 2700 kms) and The Western Himalaya Mega Trail (Trail running from Patnitop in Jammu till the Tri junction area of Kumaon, approx. 1200-1500 kms).
Another function is to facilitating development of destinations and experiences under the Swadesh Darshan 2.0. Some of the destinations and experiences recognized are:
a) Gandikota, Andra Pradesh- Gandikota Gorge Experience
b) Mechaka, Arunachal Pradesh- Adventure Park Experience
c) Sohra, Meghalaya- Meghalayan Age Cave Experience
d) Sohra, Meghalaya Waterfall Trails Experience
e) Chumoukedima, Nagaland- Ecotourism Experience at Chumoukedima viewpoint
f) Chumoukedima, Nagaland- Adventure Tourism Experience at Jacob Village
g) Bhongir, Telangana- Bhongir Fort Experiential Zone
h) The Nigiris, Tamil Nadu- Nature Trall Experience along Pykara river, Ooty
i) Ananthagiri, Telangana- Eco Tourism Experience
j) Chandil, Jharkhand: Waterfront Escapade
MoT also has come up with the Vibrant Village Program to identify vibrant villages having the potential for adventure tourism. Besides, MoT is also in process to support challenge-based development of destinations for more holistic development and enhance tourist experience across all points of the tourist value chain. Verma informs that MoT has defined guidelines and criteria for such development, with a breakdown of categories such as Spiritual Tourism – 15 destinations will be eligible to get 25 Cr each; Culture & Heritage – 15 destinations will get 25 Cr each; Vibrant Villages program – 10 destinations, 05 Cr each; Ecotourism & Amrit Dharohar Sites – 10 destinations, 10 Cr each. Total stands to 50 destinations.
Lastly, to facilitate Governance and Institutional Framework, MoT constituted National Board for Adventure Tourism and designated ITTM as the Central Nodal Agency for Adventure Tourism where nodal officers from 12 states and UTs are appointed.
Cross Section Perspective
Talking about India’s potential to lead the way in the genre of adventure tourism, Lt. Gen. Rakesh Kapoor, Deputy Chief of Army Staff mentioned during the convention, “Tourism in India can be a 24*7 round-the-year activity, depending on where you want to be or which part. According to the Forbes list, India is the 7th most beautiful country, I think they are wrong. India is possibly the most beautiful country in the world. And if we are the most beautiful country in this world, we need to increase the percentage of what adventure and tourism contribute to the GDP. Today we are at 4.6%, collectively all of us need to increase the contribution towards the GDP. If we are the 22nd ranked country visited across the world, there is huge scope to increase our contribution of foreign earnings from tourism.”
Pema Khandu, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh also stated, “In our country we have a huge potential for adventure tourism, but we are still not able to harness our potential. If we want to promote good tourism, we need to have good infrastructure and strong communication. ATOAI has brought adventure tour operators today to this platform and you can now guide us and the respective State boards with your suggestions on how to utilize the facilities better, and we can take them forward.”
Colonel Ranveer Singh Jamwal, SM, VSM and Director NIMAS during his presentation, discusses the role of adventure institutes, scope of adventure tourism in India and also vision for the future of adventure tourism in India. In terms of challenges, he stated the lack of clear-cut policies and regulations, infrastructure, safety standards. He also highlighted the lack of instructional & Govt support as well as other factors like lack of funds for adventure tourism, entrepreneurship and skills, lack of awareness and marketing and information dissemination by media. According to him, the way forward/need of the hour is to have a syndication between government, adventure institutes and ATOAI. “We have talked about what India offers in terms of adventure, and we all are aware what India is capable of. Adventure or adventure tourism in India is not a new concept but still it is in the nascent stage”, Jamwal added.
On the same lines, Tejbir Singh Anand, Senior VP– ATOAI revealed during his last interaction with T3, “The potential in India for adventure tourism is fantastic and India is called ‘Incredible India’ for a reason. I don’t see any other country which has the ability or the strength to stand up and say ‘Here is your competition’. Adventure is the only segment of the travel industry which brings the socio-economic benefits to the far-away regions of the country. It is all about the positioning and marketing, and unfortunately, we have not done much to push this segment. Its not like we haven’t tried, but we have our own set of challenges, challenges as being operators, challenges at the government level. And the main challenge is that we are a very large country, like a mini-continent, and to weave this big fabric called ‘India’. It is time that the state governments realise the potential, not just the natural composition, but elevating the local people, strengthening the local economy.”
“We, as adventure tour operators, are trying to sensitize the state governments and the stakeholders, about what is the right model and partnership we need to do. Today, one can buy an adventure activity package from any unidentified operator operating in even small alleys of towns and villages. And this should not happen, just because one is born in mountains doesn’t give the authority to risk other people lives in the name of adventure”, added Anand.
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