The Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) wants more travel agents to start selling adventure travel packages, particularly soft adventure, and expand their business. Ajeet Bajaj, the association’s President, ensures that they will handhold and connect them with good adventure operators.
Encouraging travel agents to expand their business and start selling adventure tourism, Ajeet Bajaj, President, Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI), says, “Almost 80 per cent of the market today is soft adventure travel and we want to network with travel agents and tour operators in Mumbai and other cities to discuss responsible adventure tourism, best practices, as well as how to select and start working with good adventure tour operators across the country. The Maharashtra travel trade is a mature body, and I would like to encourage them to start selling soft adventure travel to their clients. There are a lot of fantastic adventure operators in India who use excellent equipment and have highly skilled adventure guides.”
Soft adventure includes activities such as rafting, trekking, and zip-lining that anyone with a little bit of training can do. On the other hand, for hard adventure one needs a greater amount of training and physical fitness.
The ATOAI conducted its first regional event post-pandemic in Mumbai recently. It started with a seminar, followed by an adventure tourism roadshow during which 13 sellers met with more than 160 buyers from Mumbai. The seminar focused on key topics, such as best practices in adventure, safety and insurance in adventure travel.
Bajaj says, “We want to spread the message of safe and responsible adventure tourism in India. We set the ball rolling by organising training for the adventure guides in Mumbai in Wilderness First Aid and CPR. We also conducted a course on responsible adventure tourism. The guides also took a pledge that not only will they do the right thing as far as safety is concerned and preserve the environment, but will also serve as honorary wardens and ensure that everyone follows the ATOAI safety guidelines.”
The idea behind the seminar was to educate travel agents and tour operators about responsible adventure tourism and best practices. A lot of members from other national associations, such as TAFI, ADTOI, IATO, as well as the Maharashtra Adventure Council were also present. ATOAI will conduct similar events in other cities, including Hyderabad, Kolkata, Guwahati, Delhi, Bengaluru and Pune.
Mega trails a great product
Sharing some statistics, Bajaj says, “Globally, adventure tourism was a US$ 683 billion industry in 2017 growing at a compound annual rate of 22 per cent. As per the pre-pandemic projections, adventure tourism was to be a trillion dollar industry by 2024. We are waiting for the 2022 report, but we are hoping that adventure tourism will bounce back quickly to the pre-pandemic levels. Adventure tourism is on a mission mode in our country. We now have a national strategy for it. There is also a national board for adventure tourism. We have had four meetings so far. There is also a national board for sustainable tourism. We have a lot of work in progress for adventure tourism such as the model law.”
Adventure was also part of the G20 meet that happened in Darjeeling, where Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy announced the launch of two mega adventure tourism trails.
Addressing a session at the G20 tourism working group meeting, Reddy said the trails are expected to be launched this year: the Ganga trail (2,700 kms) and northwestern Himalayan trail (1,200 kms).
“This is going to be a game-changer for adventure tourism in India. Travellers can walk the entire trail or do sections of it. The idea is to make these mega trails to be the finest examples of sustainable tourism. We have been working on this – the MoT, ATOAI and the state governments – and we will come up with a great product,” Bajaj says.