Adventure tourism is witnessing an impressive growth in India. One of the indicators being, the inbound travel in the adventure space which is growing at an estimated rate of 5 per cent to 7 per cent per year. India has a vast coastline and about 73 per cent of the Himalayas waiting to be explored with the right infrastructure.
What is the state of adventure tourism in India?
Indian adventure tourism is yet at a nascent stage that is charting its own growth path. One of the contributors to the accelerated growth of this niche segment is the growing number of operators across different adventure beats including hiking, rafting, hot-air ballooning, paragliding etc. While there is an increase in the number of service providers, the larger question about their regulation needs to be dealt with. The adventure tourism industry still includes an unorganised sector that needs to come under immediate scrutiny. Laying foolproof checks and standing operating procedures will further accelerate the growth of adventure tourism in India.
Two months ago the government released an adventure tourism policy? What is your take on this?
It’s a step in the right direction. The adventure tour operators along with the rest of the stakeholders will be benefitted with consistent guidelines and set rules to follow. While the guidelines are welcomed, we hope to see an effective execution. There is a need for larger dialogue with the associations and operators to constantly analyse the policy and address the gaps. The policy must be mapped to local environmental aspects as much as the implementation of its feasibility. There is a need for an all-round assessment of the clauses that make the policy comprehensive.
For instance, the adventure equipment must meet the international safety standards for the sector to exponentially and consistently grow. However, in the absence of manufacturers of this equipment with required safety conditions in India, compel the operators to import them. Heavy import duties discourage the purchase of standardised equipment that leads to an increase in the risk factor of operating adventure tourism. All the relevant stakeholders must work with the government and associations to study the nitty-gritty of the policy and make it as comprehensive which will, in turn, lead to a sustainable development of the sector.
Should we be only dependent on the government or should private sector chart their own path and raise standards in this space?
A major share of the responsibility rests with the private sector given they are the subject matter experts. While they are at the receiving end of the profit, to be a responsible service provider works in their favour. It is in their interest to promote sustainability and operate responsibly. The forests in their originality will attract more visitors and mountains that remain unpolluted will stay with us longer. Education and Right Practices being the two key elements, the private players must take these up to sustain the adventure sector in India.
What are the opportunities that you see in the adventure travel space?
We haven’t even scraped the tip of adventure travel opportunities available in India. With the coastline we have, the river bodies running through the entire length and breadth of the country and the beautiful mountain ranges in the north and south, the national parks we have in the country we can in the next 10 years be the top destination for Adventure Tourism. It is an achievable target if we work with a long-term approach and realise the potential of this market.
Adventure tourism is a space that needs to be looked upon in more depth as it does not only contribute to the overall growth of the industry but ensures the ecology, mountains and the forests are safe. We can also see a dearth in domestic players in the adventure equipment manufacturing sector that is giving an open field to many foreign brands to become a household name. This shows the immense potential of the adventure sector and its various subsidiaries have.
Are Indian operators geared up to address the demands of the new age adventure travel community?
There are many Indian operators who are very well equipped and are efficiently handling the demand of the new age adventure travel community. There is excitement and eagerness to grow further and contribute positively to the adventure community. However, a majority portion of the fraternity seems to have underestimated and unexplored the industry's potential. While the resources needed to successfully operate the sector are in abundance, those in control must network and work with a common goal. The right set of collaborations between various stakeholders will prove fruitful for the entire adventure ecosystem.
You have completed one year in this space? What are your thoughts on the industry?
Trip 360 was started with the intention to create safe, sustainable and social experiences for travellers across the world. During the last one year, we have materialized some wonderful journeys to far out places like the South Pole and Mt Vinson Massif and taken our travellers to climb the remote mountain in Papua and brought them back safe. We have tried to keep the spirit of adventure alive and up the game at every given opportunity. Our travellers have cherished every bit of experience we’ve offered them. We have consistently introspected and kept innovating to ensure a greater contentment of our customers - whether it's cycling from Mumbai to Goa or walking the Indus Frozen River in Winter Ladakh.
We need to educate our clients about all things adventure so people don't get drawn with wrong ideas. I feel the adventure industry in India both from its stakeholder's perspective and from the client's perspective is going through a shift and it's very important that at this learning stage we make the right decisions.