Insurance coverage a deciding factor for inbound adventure travellers coming to India: Suman Billa
Akansha Pandey | New Delhi
To become a major player in adventure tourism globally, India needs to address the single most important bottleneck of insurance. People from the west do not travel to a destination for adventure sports unless insurance does not cover their travel and activities. Hence, as long as the adventure travel services offered by operators aren’t covered under insurance, they will always be a marginal player, said Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism.
The Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) has been working on the guidelines on Safety and Quality Norms for Adventure Tourism in India with great detail and yesterday all stakeholders came together for the launch of first-ever guidelines by Government of India on Adventure Tourism.
The states now will have to ensure that whichever adventure travel supplier seeks the license fulfils the guidelines. Also, with time, the Ministry of Tourism is open to making practical revisions based on the feedback.
In his address, Billa stated that a large number of millennials are taking up adventure travel.
Thus, it is pertinent to create experiential travel products and enhance the value offering keeping that target audience in mind.
Giving a bold statement as always, KJ Alphons, Union Minister for Tourism said that it’s fundamental for life to be exciting.
However, Indian parents don’t teach their children to be adventurous and independent.
“In India, parents are the biggest enemies of their children. We hardly see teenagers or even college goers travelling solo. We are creating a society which is so dependent. Moreover, travelling in India is an adventure in itself. On this occasion, I would urge the country to have a sense of adventure. It is not about climbing mountains but an attitude of the mind, a sense of achievement,” the Minister stressed.
Rashmi Verma, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism also agreed that it is imperative for the state tourism departments to shoulder the responsibility in adopting and creating awareness about the norms.
She applauded how ATOAI has been on its toes to get their pressing demands heard and addressed, primarily to get the guidelines in India revised. They were the first ones whom I met when I took over as the Secretary Tourism, she recalled.
The first set of guidelines was issued by the Ministry of Tourism in 2012.
Those guidelines were very relevant at that time but since then the sector has covered quite a few miles. Today, the adoption of new guidelines will act as a catalyst in achieving the ambitious target of inbound tourism in the coming years.
Verma also added that travellers too, have moved on from monument sightseeing to active holidaying. Adventure Tourism is one of the best mediums to offer the much talked about experiential travel.
With 70% of Himalayas and 7,500 km of coastline, India has immense potential to attract niche adventure travellers. To leverage adventure-seeking inbound tourists, these guidelines have been set keeping the international audience in mind.
By merely boosting connectivity and enhancing the infrastructure slightly, India will be able to seize this low-hanging opportunity, feels Verma.
On being questioned as to how will ATOAI as the apex body of adventure tour operators and the nodal body of MoT will monitor and ensure that every tour operator follows it, Captain Swadesh Kumar, President, ATOAI lamented that there is no such law.
“There is no way either of us can ensure that it is being followed by the 15,000 adventure tour operators pan India. We can at least push our members to adhere to it.
The ball is now in the state tourism department’s court. Whoever wants to get recognised from them will have to sign the guideline agreement too.
There has been no comment/objection in writing from any state so far which in turn automatically assures that they will ask the local operators to abide by it.
ATOAI consists of 500 members in total. Every city has its own local adventure travel association. We have reached out asking them to become ATOAI’s affiliate member. ATOAI has already tied up with four of such local adventure travel associations.
Celebrating “2018 Year of Indian Adventure,” the association will be conducting an expo cum workshop for non-ATOAI adventure tour operators based in Kolkata on June 13. It is free of cost.
This will not only drive membership but educate operators in general on the standardised working format which can yield them better results.
In the past one year, ATOAI members have surged from 200 to 500, he confirmed.