Adventure tourism has grown rapidly worldwide over the past few years as travellers are keen to explore undiscovered destinations with a certain degree of adventure, excitement and risk. Global adventure tourism market is today valued at $490 billion and is projected to reach $1335 billion by 2023, which would mean a Cumulative Average Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 17 per cent.
Adventure tourism is growing exponentially because it is resilient, supports local economies, attracts youth and high-value customers, and encourages sustainable practices. Significant increase in government initiatives and public-private partnerships have fuelled the growth of this segment.
The social media trend has further accelerated the opportunities for its growth. Studies have shown that, currently, Europe dominates the global market with more than one-third share in terms of value. However, Asia Pacific is estimated to witness the highest growth rate during the next five years. The Asia Pacific region has diverse adventure activities to explore.
The economic growth, the easing of travel restrictions, improved infrastructure and aggressive promotion strategy adopted by the countries of this region are likely to accelerate the growth of Adventure tourism in this region.
India, with immense diversity in geographical conditions and rich natural resources, offers immense opportunities to domestic and foreign travellers to undertake a variety of adventure activities.
Adventure tourism is growing exponentially as it is resilient, supports local economies, attracts youth and high-value customers, and encourages sustainable practices
With a 7500-km coastal belt, 73 per cent of the Himalayan ranges, the terrain of north east, the Vindhya and Satpura ranges, the Aravallis, the Western and Eastern Ghats, the backwaters, the Sundarbans and a wide network of inland rivers, India is endowed with all natural resources required for land, water and air-based adventure activities.
The Travel and Tourism Competitive Index Report 2017 released by World Economic Forum has acknowledged richness of natural resources of India and has ranked India 24th out of 136 countries.
Adventure tourism is by and large prevalent in all regions of India, however, the top 10 states are Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, Goa, Rajasthan, Assam, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh.
Research has shown that wildlife and jeep safaris, trekking and camping are the three leading adventure activities undertaken by adventure travellers in India, followed by camel, elephant and horse safaris, cycling, rock climbing, artificial wall climbing and bungee jumping. The trekking, camping and wildlife safaris are the most practiced land-based activities in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan.
Water rafting, scuba diving, kayaking, canoeing and boat safaris are common water-based adventure activities in Uttarakhand, Andaman & Nicobar, Maharashtra, Kerala, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. Parasailing, paragliding and hot air ballooning are popular air-based adventure activities in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Goa and Sikkim.
The National Tourism Policy 2002 may not have addressed all the concerns faced today for integrated development of adventure tourism, however, the policy aptly acknowledged Himalayas and mighty rivers of India as the greatest adventure tourism assets in the world and resolved to create them as the brand icon of Indian Adventure tourism.
The policy also underlined the need for regulation and certification for Adventure tourism operators with a view to meeting minimum safety and conservation standards. The new National Tourism Policy Draft 2015 has adequately addressed the issues and concerns more comprehensively by proposing the following policy initiatives:
- Developing integrated plans to turn the country’s geographical and natural assets into tangible world-class tourism experiences
- Developing and promoting brand Himalayas in collaboration with the Himalayan states
- Encouraging setting up of caravan parks and camping sites
- Training of adventure guides
- Public liability insurance policy to be made available for adventure tour operators
- Drafting clear guidelines for adventure tour operators, especially, covering areas like safety and make accreditation mandatory
India is a goldmine of Adventure tourism and has a huge potential to be one of the leading destinations of adventure travel and tourism in the world. However, adventure travel in India has always been confronted with challenges of accessibility, infrastructure, safety and security, licensing and quality standards.
The issues of inadequate connectivity to adventure locations, requirement of modern adventure equipment, need for improved roads, requirement of medical and first aid in remote areas, need for simplification of procedure for getting permits, demand for opening new mountain peaks, insufficient customer awareness about safety and risk assessment, unorganised and uncertified tour operators and need for rescue teams in remote areas have been some other concerns.
The process of addressing these challenges has begun. The past few years has seen a surge in the awareness about the potential and benefits of Adventure tourism at all levels. The Tourism Ministry of India has taken multiple steps through policy initiatives, administrative actions, infrastructure development and bringing all stakeholders together, with a view to harness the potential of Adventure tourism of the country. Some of the notable steps include:
- Conducting a comprehensive study on development and promotion of Adventure tourism in India
- Constitution of National Task Force as a forum for resolving issues related to development and promotion of Adventure tourism in the country
- Issuing guidelines for approval of adventure tour operators
- Formulation of comprehensive guidelines on safety and quality norms on Adventure tourism as ‘basic minimum standards’
- Extending Central financial assistance to various State Governments/Union Territories of India for tourism infrastructure at adventure destinations
- Promoting inland water tourism by providing financial assistance for construction of boats, jetties and cruise vessels
- Deciding to purchase 25 satellite phones to be used for communication during mountaineering in remote areas
- Making Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering at Gulmarg, fully operational
All destinations in the world have set their eyes on the huge and fast growing global Adventure tourism market. India, which has a distinct edge over many countries, has to be proactive to get the share of global market it deserves.
The announcement by Ministry of Tourism to consider 2018 as the ‘Year of Adventure Tourism’ is a loud and clear message to the world that India is all set to develop and aggressively promote Adventure tourism.
The year will also see Adventure Tour Operators Associations of India (ATOAI) spearheading a series of events and roadshows in India and overseas, including FAM trips for international adventure tour operators and travel media.
The idea of hosting India Adventure Summit and the ‘ATTA Adventure Next’ in 2018 and ATOAI’s plan to bid for PATA Adventure Travel Mart and Conference 2019 are laudable and deserve full support from the Union Government and other stakeholders.
India has indeed risen to the occasion to address and harness its vast potential of Adventure tourism. However, Adventure tourism in India has to be taken forward on a ‘Mission Mode’. The accomplishments of Adventure Tourism Year have to be consolidated and strengthened. Formulating a long-term national plan for integrated development of Adventure tourism could be one of the steps.
While the Tourism Ministry of India should act as the torchbearer, the State Governments and private stakeholders need to coordinate with the Ministry to take Adventure Tourism in India to commanding heights.