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Promotion and safety implementation key to showcase Adventure Tourism

Despite having 70 per cent of the Himalayas, around 7000 kms of coastline, India being among one of the three countries in the world with both hot and cold deserts, ranks 10th in total area under forest cover and 6th in terms of number of recognised UNESCO Natural Heritage sites, a varied flora and fauna, Indian adventure tourism is yet at a nascent stage but charting its own growth path. As per industry guestimates, inbound adventure tourism in India was growing 5-7 per cent annually and domestic adventure tourism was growing by 20-25 per cent.

Adventure tourism is resilient, supports local economies, attracts high value customers and encourages sustainable practices. However, adventure tourism remains a relatively small market in India as compared to the West. The main reason for the slow growth is the lack of clear-cut policy and regulations as well as infrastructure. Historically, India has also suffered from an image problem - in particular relating to safety standards. Hence, the facility and support staffs need to be developed to the global standards.

T3 organised an e-conference at SATTE GenX titled, ‘Adventure Tourism: Unlocking new avenues post COVID’. Moderated by Tejbir Singh Anand, Managing Director, Holiday Moods Adventures & Past President, ATOAI; the panel witnessed a lineup of eminent industry experts including Deepak R Joshi, Founding Executive Member - World Tourism Network; Sanjay Basu, Co-Founder & Chairman, Far Horizon Tours India; Milind Bhide, Managing Director and CEO, Countryside Adventure Holidays; Pradeep Murthy, Director, Muddy Boots Vacations; Anirudh Chaoji, Chief Naturalist, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve

Speaking about how India can reposition itself as an adventure and natural destination, Basu, said, “Unfortunately, we as a country haven’t been able to go beyond the Taj Mahal. We need to strongly and aggressively promote Adventure. The World Economic Forum Rated India in terms of natural heritage as 6th greatest on earth, in a tight position with Brazil. We are custodian of the largest chunk of the greatest mountain chain on earth. We have three kind of deserts in India Golden desert-Thar, Silver desert- Rann of Kutch, and cold desert-Spiti, Ladakh, which we need to showcase to the world. We have almost every kind of forest from equatorial rainforest in Andaman to tropical rainforest in south India to alpine forest in our mountain chains. 24 per cent of our landmass is covered with forests and we have all the big cats in India. 1272 species of birds are present in India. 105 rivers with many navigable and which offers adventure and cruising opportunities.”

He further added, “This industry US$1.7 trillion dollar by 2026. Post pandemic people will be looking at going to natural destination. This is an opportunity for us to attract inbound travellers. this subsector of tourism industry can easily produce US$40-50 billion, what a transformation it will cause to the rural regions. We need to come out with a model of sustainable development with eco-tourism and adventure tourism. Accessibility, amenities, accommodations, experience development, promotion are a few challenges which we all must address. We have every kind of adventure in India. India can be the cruising solution for the world in the winter months.”

In a bid to position India as an adventure tourism destination, the Government needs to spread awareness about the activities which are available in India rather than promoting just destinations.

Speaking about the strategy, Bhide, said, “We are a diverse and a big country and a complex nation. We cannot put everything in one basket and present to the world. Adventure needs to have a positioning of itself. We need to promote activity wise rather than destinations. every market has its own interests, we should promote activities with its importance. We need to communicate and promote this through every possible way that we are tourist friendly. We need to show that there are enough opportunities in India for exploration which is off the beaten path. We should show that we are a safe and secure destination with infrastructure during emergencies. We should also be socially responsible and are sustainable, which travelled are looking at today. We should position India with taglines such as ‘Once is not enough’, we need to create repeat clientele.”

Tadoba Wildlife Sanctuary in India has been extremely successful in the PPP mode of development. The entire sanctuary is run by the local community in a sustainable model.

Chaoji, added, “India is a natural history star-studded destination, which has not been promoted. Government should not be in the business of running a business. In India every wildlife sanctuary has one or two gates, in Tadoba we have 20 gates with 12 experiences. Around 35 villages are direct beneficiaries of these activities. We have women guides in Tadoba, which is very unique in walking tours. We are creating equal opportunity for everyone. There is a great adventure in wildlife, boating and cycling are our biggest hits after safaris. Human entry into a park or any natural place, there is an impact. Destinations with a sustainable impact plan can only safeguard the destinations. we have installed with water-coolers at our gates, and we request travellers to not take plastic bottles. We are trying to create Tadoba a carbon-neutral destination. Earlier we had tractors suppling water at the waterholes. Now we have solar pumps where there is no human touch, directly supplies water. Soon our petrol safari vehicles will be changed to Electric vehicles. Stakeholders in Tadoba are a part of decision-making process. Such examples are replicable across India.”

Adventure tourism has certain real risks which needs to be eliminated. India needs to implement a standard guideline for the adventure tourism segment to be safe and secure.

Speaking about the safety aspect of adventure tourism, Murthy, said, “The global adventure tourism market was US$609 billion in 2019 and expected to get to US$1.8 trillion in 2027. Soft adventure will be US$1.1 trillion and family adventure will be US$555 billion by 2027. 42 per cent of the GenX traveller wants little adventure in their trips. The Indian adventure tourism revenue in 2019 is an estimate US$350 million which is not even one per cent. If we want to grow this number, we really need to work. In adventure tourism there is a little real risk involved. We need to reduce this real risk and there should only be perceived risk which makes the activities worthwhile. We need to have a regulation and set safety standard in India for adventure tourism. We have a guideline created by ATOAI, which a lot of states are rolling out, we need a standard guideline nation-wide. Effective implementation is the key. Skill development is also a major element in the adventure tourism sector.”

Nepal has been far more successful in adventure tourism compared to India. The destination has far more superior guidelines and infrastructure for adventure activities.

Speaking about the success of Nepal in adventure tourism, Joshi, said, “There is a rapidly growing change in curating and selling the experiences. We need to have more understanding the wider aspect of adventure tourism. The corporate segment is now looking at adventure activities for team building. Nepal is one of the strongest brands in adventure tourism. We are consistent in our messaging in every forum. The community involvement in adventure activities is very strong. We have 12 national parks in Nepal, and the awareness level of the community is very strong. We will be the only country who will double tiger population by 2022. We are aggressively focusing on developing the quality human resource. Our human resource is also used in India and Europe. As adventure destinations are in difficult terrains, we have developed helipads in such altitudes for rescues.”

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