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The adventure tourism guidelines was a deeply felt need, not just by the Government of India but at the state level as well: Suman Billa

The ministry of tourism (MoT), Government of India recently announced the country’s first adventure tourism guidelines. In an exclusive interview, Suman Billa, joint secretary, MoT, gives feedback on the response from the states and outlines MoT’s role in developing the segment

What has been the response to the first adventure tourism guidelines?

The response has been very good. This was a deeply felt need not just at the Government of India but at the state level as well. So we have personally gone through a process of consultation with the different state governments and they have been quite enthusiastic. This is something that unless the states come on board it doesn’t make sense because we want that anybody who is going to be licensed for adventure activities should actually conform to these guidelines. So the tourism minister has written to all the chief ministers and several of them have responded saying they would be conforming to the guidelines. The guidelines will be standard for all states.

Did the MoT refer to any international case studies while formulating the guidelines?

We have looked at what are the best practices that are practiced worldwide and of course the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) has studied the market and we also had a workshop several months ago where we discussed various models on how adventure tourism is done in South Africa, New Zealand, etc. So we have looked at global best practices and some of our learnings were drawn from those experiences.

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Will a certification or classification process be next in line?
Right now, we have only put the mandatory conditions which is the barest minimum you need to have to be able to operate as an adventure tour operator. The classification may come at a later stage but right now we are just saying that these are the minimum standards for adventure tour operators to follow.

Will ATOAI perform a regulatory role?

ATOAI cannot act as a regulatory body but since they are the largest association for this segment we have used their expertise, in fact the guidelines have been drafted by the ATOAI in consultation with the MoT so we are happy to work with them but the regulatory role will always have to be with the MoT. The architecture that we are envisaging is that we have written to all the states because the states are the ones who license the adventure activities so we have said that unless the operator pertains to these standards, the license should not be given.

What is MoT doing to promote adventure tourism in the country?

There are a couple of things we are working on. We need to work on the regulatory side as well as the promotional side. 2018 has already been declared as The Year of Adventure Tourism. And for the first time, Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), the international body promoting adventure tourism, will conduct its
‘AdventureNEXT’ event in India in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh from December 3-5, 2018. This will also mark ATTA’s Asia debut. Another event, PATA Adventure Travel and Responsible Tourism Conference and Mart 2019 (ATRTCM) will be hosted by the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board from February 13 -15, 2019 in Rishikesh. For now these are the two activities the MoT is promoting.

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