Inaugurating the 13th annual convention of Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) at Kumarakom in Kerala, Kadakampilly Surendran, State Tourism Minister said that the State Tourism department is abreast with the changes in traveler behaviour that is sweeping across the globe and therefore is mulling rebranding of the state as the ‘land of Adventure’ to woo young adventure loving travelers into the state.
Vacationers’ today look to explore places beyond temples, monuments, etc. They look to indulge in adventure and explore hills, forests, backwaters, etc., he said. “Kerala offers vacationers lot of opportunities to unleash their adventure spirit….Our aim is to rebrand Kerala as the Land of Adventure,” he stated.
As part of developing the Adventure tourism infrastructure in the State, he said the government has plans to develop water and adventure parks in the State. Northern Kerala is a major thrust area for adventure tourism for the State, he said. The government is going ahead with creating a River circuit connecting eight rivers in Kannur and Kasaragode districts at an estimated cost of Rs 325 cr, he said.
Delivering the keynote, Dr K Venu, Principal Secretary-Tourism, Kerala also said that the State Tourism department will be focusing on activity and adventure based tourism in the State. However, the guiding spirit of all developmental and promotional activities will be Responsible Tourism, he added. Tourism that doesn’t respect and honour local people, their culture, and enable and empower them will not have any place in the State, he stated.
Speaking on the occasion, Satyajeet Rajan, Director General-Tourism, Government of India said that there is a misconception that Indian adventure tourism is restricted to Himalayan region. In fact, the realm of Indian adventure spans across the country.
In his presidential address, Capt. Swadesh Kumar, President, ATOAI spoke about the changing preferences of travelers and the need for adventure tour operators to look beyond the conventional business of hard adventure. Earlier, only five verticals existed in adventure travel. Today, there are 30 different verticals in adventure travel. “Concept of adventure has undergone drastic change. Today, people are keen to have soft adventure,” he said. He said that the Adventure Tourism is one segment which is growing at a faster pace – 30% in domestic adventure travel, and 10% in inbound – compared to other travel verticals, and therefore the Association will take the leadership role in creating more traction to achieve 100% growth in the next two to three years.
Among the various initiatives that the Association planning to take in the coming years, Capt Kumar said that the mission is to strengthen the Association by brining into its fold vast number of unorganized players from across India so that service delivery is more standardized.
While there are an estimated 15,000 adventure tour operators in India, hardly 1200 are recognized by various governments. He said that the target is to make ATOAI at least a 2,000-membership strong association in the next one year. He also invited organizations at various levels with similar interests of adventure tourism to join hands with ATOAI to become affiliate members.
He expressed the happiness that Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has accepted their recommendation to declare 2018 as the Year of Adventure Travel in India – the official announcement is expected on World Tourism Day function this month. Capt. Kumar said that the Association will initiative vast number of activities including international road shows in different continents in the next 18 months to position India as a preferred destination for Adventure Travel. Major activities which are in the pipeline include a Mega India Adventure Tourism Summit in Delhi in April 2018, bringing ‘Adventure Next’, a global networking event of the Adventure Travel Trade Association(ATTA) to India in December 2018, and hosting PATA Adventure Travel Mart in one of the Himalayan States in early 2019.