Reema Lokesh – Uttarakhand
The recently concluded Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) convention at Shivpuri, Uttarakhand, highlighted and addressed a number of pressing and serious issues that affects the adventure tourism space in India. Amongst many, the issue related to India’s rafting scene was addressed at the convention and a strict rafting regulation was put in place with urging the state government to implement the same on priority. Safety and security is a major issue of concern with regards to adventure sports in India, the ATOAI body have meticulously laid down guidelines and best practices to be stringently followed, with an appeal to the state governments to make this as part of the policy and keeping the guidelines in place before issuing the required permits and license. The speakers at the convention vociferously pressed upon the importance of training and safety rules apart from addressing the issue of carrying capacity and better infrastructure for the betterment of tourism in general.
The head of Trip Advisor in India, Nikhil Ganju, shared with the audience a finding that India is not perceived as a safe adventure tourism hub to which the ATOAI felt though there are serious players in the market who are following all rules and norms, it is due to few fly by night operators and no strict check by the government that the business is facing a challenging review and reaction. Mandip Singh Soin, founder and managing director, Ibex Expeditions, emphasised on the need to address the issue of carrying capacity after conduct a serious study on what is the optimum limit for tourists to visit a region during a specific time frame. The question here is clearly about sustainable and responsible tourism.
Akshay Kumar, president ATOAI, emphasised on the need on capacity building courses in adventure as they hope to work closely with every state tourism board to take this concept forward. The plan is to start off with Darjeeling and move on to the regions.
Tejbir Singh Anand, managing director, Holiday Moods Adventure, once again highlighted the need for right infrastructure facilities, accessibility issue especially in the state of Uttarakhand, which is rich for adventure sports. The plan was to activate another train station. Building of airports namely; Chinyalisaur, Pithoragarh should be seriously considered. Trekking and camping policies along with angling policies need to be put into place. An appeal was also made to restart visits to the Nandadevi sanctuary for tourism but keeping the issue of carrying capacity in mind. The constant demand for single window clearance has been re-addressed at the convention. The good news was the Uttarakhand government promised the ATOAI members that they will immediately activate the rafting policy in their state.