Without a doubt, the untouched location of Hanuwantiya in District Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh (MP), adjacent to the 950 sq km expanse of River Narmada— one of the biggest water bodies in Asia, was the highlight of the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) 2016 convention. Aptly suited for adventure travel, it portrayed the budding destination to the delegates. Apart from exhibiting elegant tented accommodations for delegates, the location provided the opportunity to indulge into a number of adventure activities such as hot air ballooning, wind surfing, parasailing, jet skiing, banana ride, water zorbing, bird watching, trekking, night camping and more.
Madhya Pradesh Tourism too, left no stone unturned to make the event a great success and ensure the best of service and hospitality, even at this remote location. Be it good F&B, security or traditional cultural programmes showcasing the colourful state, Madhya Pradesh Tourism placed its best foot forward.
Having followed the legacy of hosting the convention at adventure destinations, the organising team of the convention presented a balanced platter to delegates combining business sessions, a one-of-its-kind networking session and a host of adventure activities to opt for within an informal set-up. However, the business sessions could have been more focused in addressing the issues concerning the adventure travel industry in India, and giving a holistic feedback in development of a potential destination—Hanuwantiya. Incredible India was a partner at the event, but no senior official from the Ministry of Tourism was present at the convention.
On the other hand, the distance from Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport, Indore to the venue in Hanuwantiya was 150 km (approximately), which took the delegates about five hours by road to reach the location. The valedictory session, which was majorly addressed by ATOAI Executive Committee, didn’t have much food for thought and was skipped by Hari Ranjan Rao, MD, MP Tourism, who was supposed to address the same. In the future, if MP Tourism is sincerely looking at developing Hanuwantiya as a tourist spot, it will have to overcome the challenge of connectivity, first and foremost, besides other roadblocks.
||ATOAI signs MoU with Madhya Pradesh Tourism
ATOAI and Madhya Pradesh Tourism also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as per which ATOAI would be conducting one-year skill development and capacity building certification course, especially for the rural population of MP. Under the same, basic training would be provided to conduct adventure sports in concerned areas. “Final details of the commencement of the course are in the pipeline,” said Tejbir Singh Anand, Chairman, ATOAI Convention 2016.
Also, in the next three months, the ATOAI-recognised adventure tour operators can procure, register and use satellite phones on non-restricted adventure tourism circuits in India. This was revealed by Akshay Kumar, President, ATOAI at the inauguration ceremony of the convention.
Inaugurating the 12th ATOAI Convention and Jal Mahotsav at Hanuwantiya, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister, MP, outlined, “We aim to develop Hanuwantiya, near River Narmada on a public-private-partnership (PPP) model and promote adventure sports in the vicinity to add overnights to the destination. Connectivity is a major issue which will soon be addressed by the MP government by developing an airstrip near the destination. This will shorten the travel duration and increase footfalls to the mesmerising destination of Hanuwantiya. I call for private players to establish resorts and other tourism-related activities at this place.”
Addressing the delegates at the inaugural ceremony, M Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister for Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Parliamentary Affairs, praised the MP government for exploring and developing a potential tourist destination such as Hanuwantiya. “I hope to see Hanuwantiya on the map of inbound travellers soon,” he said.
Revealing a guesstimate, Akshay Kumar, President, ATOAI said that the adventure travel industry (domestic and inbound) in India is valued at INR 2,500 crore. “This is one segment which also encourages sustainable tourism as majority of the adventure activities are held at nature-based locations. Most importantly, it is also a prominent opportunity to push off season business for the tour operators.” Lamenting on the challenges in adventure travel segment he added that there are no entry barriers for the operator and no eligibility checks. Lack of qualified and certified manpower, emergency services and air connectivity to major hubs has dampened the growth.
Tejbir Singh Anand, Chairman, ATOAI Convention 2016, called for carbonless footprint and plastic-free convention. The delegates planted saplings as a gesture to promote sustainability.SESSION: Marketing of Adventure Travel-The Way Forward
Calling technology as a game-changer, Himmat Anand, Founder, Tree of Life Resorts & Hotels, outlined that instead of exhibiting at trade marts, suppliers must insist on one-on-one meet, sales calls and targeted promotions on Facebook. “Big marts like ITB and WTM don’t really work for small scale operators. Participating in related niche events could bring in business. Also, take the reins of your brand’s social media account in your hand and promote your own brand. Your posts will exude your passion as well,” he exclaimed.
Ajay Jain, Editor, Kunzum Travel Magazine, added, “One can promote products and services on social media which are not even being researched on Google by travellers. It is a cost-effective medium, where suppliers can upsell, thereby boosting profit margins. Good content and storytelling should be generated to attract targeted audience, but wonders won’t happen in a day’s time. Besides, every wrong feedback must be addressed as Google never forgets.”
SESSION: Managing Growth
Being responsible can be hugely profitable, exclaimed Gopinath Pariyal, Founder, The Blue Yonder, who assisted several destinations in times of natural calamities considering it a larger responsibility. “It is imperative to retain the destination and work in a sustainable manner to promote it on a long-term basis. Giving back is as important as driving profits,” he highlighted. Likewise, good storytelling and availability of day activities can add overnights, he said.
Anirudh Chaoji, Director, Pugmarks Tours, urged not to look at labour as cheap workers but involve, train and empower them as partners and stakeholders. He also added that instead of over-saturating a destination, operators must look out for newer destinations and activities. “Operators must care about the carrying capacity to a destination and should not kill the goose that lays golden eggs,” he emphasised.
Citing the example of Hanuwantiya, Ajeet Bajaj, Executive Committee Member, ATOAI, added that instead of copy pasting a successful growth model for Hanuwantiya, the government must strive to involve the local community and ensure sustainability.
Dr. Pranab J Patar, Consultant, Earthwatch Institute India, outlined that over 25% of global travel is nature-based which in itself reiterates the importance to protect and grow the natural resources. He also introduced four Android mobile applications to bring people closer to the environment – Bird Find, Tree Watch, Butterflies & Bees and Polenators app.SESSION: Importance of Innovations & Investments
Talking about his journey, Sanajy Basu, MD, Far Horizon Tours, recalled that foreseeing the travel trends of millenials, they realised much in time the need to develop soft adventure and comfortable luxury travel in a nominal price bracket.
Brig Sarab Pal Singh, Director – Marketing and Publicity, Jumpin Adventures, said that they invested 1.5 years initially to come up with adventure activities in Rishikesh. “Primarily, we set standard operating procedures and thereafter made a deliberate effort to attract travellers and get them to experience the thrill,” he said.
“Government must play a bigger role of a facilitator to develop a destination. There must be a coordinated effort by all stakeholders and risks must be covered by the government. Moreover, newer marketing techniques must be promoted calling for sustainability,” said Anand Kumar, MD, National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited.
Addressing the connectivity challenge at Hanuwantiya, Varun Suhag, CEO, Flyboy Aviation, added that air taxi concept can be implemented in Hanuwantiya to connect routes under 300 km. With five minutes of check in time, it can fly one passenger as well.
||2016 ATOAI AWARDS WINNERS
Best Adventure Travel Website
Best Popular Adventure Camp/Resort
Innovation in Adventure Activity:
Air Adventure - Flyboy Aviation Pvt. Ltd.
Land Adventure - Jumpin Adventures Pvt. Ltd.
Water Adventure - MV Mahabaahu (Far Horizon Tours Pvt. Ltd.)
New Innovative Product (Eco Lodge in Remote location)
Binsar Forest Retreat
Excellence in Community & Adventure based Tourism
Pugmarks Eco Tours Pvt. Ltd.
Innovation in ‘Adventure Travel’ (Based on Innovation, Strategy, Use of Technology, Safety Standards, SOP’s & Sustainability)
LifeStraw (A&S Creations)
Awards of Excellence
Lifetime Achievement Award - Vasant Limaye
Hall of Fame - Mohan Tickoo
Game Changer in the Adventure Travel Industry - Decathlon Sports India
Best Indian State in Adventure Tourism
Innovation in Creating Adventure Destination - Madhya Pradesh Tourism
Promotion for Adventure Travel - Jammu & Kashmir Tourism
Sustainability in Adventure Travel - Sikkim Tourism
Upcoming State Promoting Adventure Travel - Maharashtra Tourism