India hops on adventure tourism thrill ride

Shifting perceptions of India being mainly for culture tours; Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir state pictured

A long neglected segment in India, adventure tourism is finally being given new focus with the country’s Ministry of Tourism declaring 2018 the Year of Adventure Travel.

Apart from increasing arrivals, the move is expected to help change the perception of India as being a mere cultural destination, according to tourism stakeholders TTG Asia spoke to.

Shifting perceptions of India being mainly for culture tours; Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir state pictured

“With India’s inbound arrivals growing by more than 10 per cent last year, we believe that focus on potential segments like adventure tourism can help India to double its inbound tourist arrivals in a couple of years,” said Swadesh Kumar, president, Adventure Tour Operators Association of India.

Though there are no official statistics available to show the size of the Indian inbound adventure tourism market, the industry estimates the segment is growing five to seven per cent yearly, with about half a million adventure travellers arriving in the country.

“At present the (perception of) India is a cultural destination, although 73 per cent of the Himalayas are in India. Our counterparts in key inbound markets like the US are promoting places like Nepal and Bhutan for active holidays while India is promoted majorly as a cultural destination,” observed Tejbir Singh Anand, managing director, Holiday Moods Adventures.

With the tourism ministry’s new-found focus on adventure, Tejbir expects more of India’s adventure travel offerings will be on showcase at roadshows and exhibitions.

India’s Ministry of Tourism is also taking steps to prop India up as a destination for adventure travel, such as allowing the use of satellite phones in far-flung areas – something the travel industry players have long called for – and introducing safety guidelines for adventure tourism.

“One of the big things in adventure travel is risk management, so with the government allowing adventure tour operators to use satellite phones in areas of wilderness will help us to improve our safety standards,” said Ajeet Bajaj, managing director, Snow Leopard Adventures.

Suman Billa, joint secretary at India’s Ministry of Tourism, commented: “We need to get some big events that showcase adventure travel to happen in India, which would ultimately help us to create a roadmap for future growth in the segment.”

To begin with, the tourism ministry has lent its support to India’s first-ever Adventure Sports Expo Asia & Awards 2018, which took place in New Delhi from January 27 to 29. The event saw the participation from 500 delegates, including 60 exhibitors, some of whom were adventure tour operators.

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