Arshdeep Anand, Chairperson, ATOAI Women’s Collective, speaks about her experience in adventure tourism over the past 25 years, the organisation’s initiatives to recognise women’s efforts and celebrate their achievements.
Women constitute 60% of the workforce in tourism industry at present, but only 3% of them are accredited mountain guides. The profession is overwhelmingly dominated by men, but the scenario is changing, said Arshdeep Anand, Chairperson, ATOAI Women’s Collective.
“There has been an exponential rise in the number of female adventure travellers, which has energised women to develop their skills in the adventure field. Furthermore, female guides are in high demand because they are more compassionate, better listeners and more motivated by telling their own stories. People find that inspiring and aspiring. There is no doubt that more female guides are making a breakthrough in the field,” she added.
Anand pointed out that India has no adventure tourism policies or measures aimed at women at present. However, there are several forums working to sensitise policy makers about the importance of gender parity in tourism and formulate measures, so that women can benefit from tourism. “Women have better leadership opportunities in tourism compared to other industries since women’s empowerment is a goal of sustainable development,” she added.
Anand shared her experience in the adventure tourism business. She and her husband have been in the business for the last 25 years, and this year marks their silver jubilee.
Sharing her incredible experience as a tourism operator, she said, “It has been a joyful journey during which I have learned a great deal and met some amazing people. I have trekked in many beautiful valleys of the Himalayas, driven to the most remote parts of our country, spotted wildlife in many national parks, rafted the Ganges, and travelled extensively to many beautiful countries.”
She also owned adventure centres that are inspired to bring a women’s perspective to camps organised for travellers and trekkers. In her leadership position at a trade association, Anand expressed her pleasure being a mentor to fellow women and felt compelled to raise awareness of the great work being done by the women in tourism sector.
Speaking of the ATOAI Women’s Collective, Anand said, “AWC recognises women’s efforts and celebrates their achievements by bringing them to the forefront. The adventure tourism industry is dominated by men, and the collective aims to give visibility to the strong network of women that already exists, but is seldom recognized.”
She added, “As its first initiative, AWC held a workshop on gender sensitivity that attracted men and women alike. A photo contest on Instagram was organised to put the spotlight on women in adventure. In order to monitor the safety of women outdoors, AWC is working on the standardisation of safety guidelines.”
Founded just a few months ago, AWC strives to facilitate the empowerment of women in adventure travel. “It is critical that we foster an inclusive culture in which collective decision-making is free of gender bias and women members participate at all levels. Our endeavour is to create a community for women for peer mentoring and networking,” she said.