We live in country that is blessed with a vast topography, diverse geographical conditions and six splendid seasons. Be it the condescending Himalayan peaks up north or the promontories along the Western Ghats or the expanse of the mighty ocean stretching till horizon, the Indian landscape has it all! Certainly, there is an immense opportunity out there for the tourism industry of India which currently boasts of being the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country.
Whilst the potential of tourism in India is unquestionably bright, the mind-set of the tourist in recent times has undergone a transformation. Gone are the days when a wandering mind used to find solace lying under the warmth of the setting sun on a golden sandy beach by the sea. The modern evolved Indian yearns for something beyond the normalcy of a sight-seeing holiday. He is ready to take the leap of faith to quench his thirst for that adrenalin rush which runs a chill down his spine. That’s where the adventure sports industry comes into picture.
India & Adventure Sports: The Current Scenario
The adventure sports or adventure tourism industry in India has been flourishing over the last decade. More than 3.5 million people participated in adventure tourism in India in the year 2015. Out of which, around 11% were foreign nationals. Globally it’s an industry worth 263 million USD (as per data available in tourism.gov.in).
The advantage that India gets over other countries is its rich geological legacy and the opportunity to offer a heterogeneous mix of adventure sports to the thrill seekers. The basket of offerings include activities like trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, skiing, jungle & camel safari, paragliding & parasailing, bungee jumping, snorkelling and much more. Some anonymous author has rightly said “variety is the spice of life”! Adventurers can choose from a wide range of activities as per their interests and set off on a wild and fun filled escapade.
The adventure tourism industry till a few years ago was largely dependent on the influx of foreign tourists. However, in the last decade, the extensive reach of internet, the burgeoning number of low cost airlines and the government of India’s initiatives through campaigns like Incredible India have tremendously expanded this industry and its possibilities. Also with increased per capita income, the disposable income in the hands of the middle class has certainly gone up. Therefore travelling across the country and spending a few bucks on a mind boggling adventurous trip is gradually making its way to the top of travellers’ bucket lists.
The average Indian’s lifestyle has seen an exponential shift in recent times. From the traditional joint families to nuclear families to the very latest topsy-turvy trend of double-income-no-kids! The liberated present generation is opting for a free and boundless life. As a result, youngsters in the age group of 18 – 35 have become much more experimental and are keener to explore things off the beaten track.
More and more Indians nowadays are trying to find an escape from the corporate rat race. The wilderness of adventure sports gives them that temporary out of the world feeling that acts as a major stress buster and preps them up to sustain the monotony of a nine to five corporate life.
Besides, the penetration of social media & internet in our lives has connected the world like never before. Travellers are much more informed today. Internet has broken the myths associated with adventure tourism. Research & information is available at the traveller’s fingertips, so the demand for adventure sports has certainly multiplied.
Ever been on a team bonding trip? Yes, they are a compulsory part of the HR policy of most corporate companies these days. Also many educational institutions are actively organising such trips which serve as ice breaking sessions for students. The agenda is to keep it short (for a day or two), exciting and exhilarating. Nothing serves the purpose better than a trip to an adventure sports camp. Plus such trips come in handy for the companies operating out of metros and two tier cities since the mushrooming number of adventure sports camps have made their presence felt in these parts. So team bonding cum adventure trips from Delhi to Rishikesh or Pune to Kamshet are gradually gaining ground and are here to stay.
Additionally, with the emergence of tented campsites and experienced instructors, convenience & safety norms associated with adventure sports have fallen in place. Most adventure sports sites are located on the outskirts of cities, which earlier, due to sheer lack of accommodation facilities were restricted to just a day’s visit. However, now the increasing demand in this industry has not only lead to tented camps but also various budget hotels & hostels are coming up around campsites. Further, technology has lead to the usage of state of the art and sturdy sports equipments which has taken the overall experience a notch higher.
Another trend this industry has seen in the last five years is the dramatic number of solo female travellers who are coming out of their shells and experiencing the thrill of a sky diving or a river rafting. The 21st century women are not scared to take on the challenging sport and long for that wow factor in their trip which they can cherish for a lifetime.
Government Support for Adventure Sports
The ministry of tourism, Government of India has formed a National Task Force to address the challenges of safety, connectivity, licencing and standards associated with adventure sports. The task force will also work towards creating awareness about the opportunities available in the country in adventure tourism. It will strive towards the much required exposure that the Indian adventure tourism industry is in need for.
The government is extending financial support to various State Governments and Union Territories for developing facilities for adventure sports in various destinations. The facilities include infrastructure development and purchase of equipments for activities like mountaineering, aero sports, water sports, trekker huts, wildlife viewing etc.
Besides, the government of India has also given clearance for opening additional peaks in the Himalayas in Leh region. This step will not only aid the local adventure tour operators in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in catering to the humungous demand for mountaineering but also help in positioning India as a major adventure destination.
Growth in the near future
Well it’s just the beginning. The plethora of opportunities in this industry has just started creating the buzz. The boom is surely underway. As per analysts, the global adventure tourism market is expected to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 46% between 2016 to 2020. The tourism industry of India, being the largest service industry in the country is expected to add 7% towards India’s GDP every year till 2024.
Adventure tourism is an integral part of the tourism industry and is one of the primary sectors working towards FTA (Foreign Tourist Arrivals) which in turn aids the economy of the country. It’s also picking up momentum with its domestic travellers. As per ATOAI (Adventure Tour Operators Association of India), the sector’s domestic market has seen a 400% rise in demand as compared to foreign tourists’ demand. So this industry is likely to increase the tourist inflow in lesser known locales and thus create more jobs in the near future.
Comparison with the west
We have come a long way, for sure, but we still have a long way to go! The top adventure holiday destinations for an international tourist are still countries like Canada, Brazil and New Zealand. The limitations of a developing country have been coming in the way of growth of this sector. Also the bureaucratic red tapism of the government in the past had lead to a few pitfalls, however now with the existing government’s support, this industry is seeing the light of the day.
Another area where we are different from the west is the choice of an adventure sport. The west is more inclined towards hard core adventure sports like sky diving, deep sea diving or sea surfing whereas Indian tourists’ top picks are soft adventure sports like a parasailing, jungle safari or kayaking. Hence we are still at a nascent stage as far as hard core adventure tourism is concerned.
Adventure sports in western countries are being practised since ages, therefore the sector there is much more organised. India is getting there gradually. But again the Indian terrain offers a huge scope of diversity in its offering. Unlike the west, the traveller need not hop countries to enjoy different forms of adventure sports. India has something for everybody under one roof. A couple of years down the line this sector in India is bound to get more organised and India is destined to become the next adventure destination of the world.
Author: Rohini Banerjee