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‘The pandemic led to a remarkable increase in awareness about the North East’

The North East region of India has emerged as a must-do travel destination in the past couple of years, especially with a range of adventure activities available. Amit Periwal, Director, Clubside Tours and Travels Pvt Ltd and Chapter Chairman, East India, ATOAI, spoke to Disha Shah Ghosh about their offerings for the region, challenges and the expansion of their geographical footprint.

Q. The awareness about the tourism opportunities in the North East is still not very profound. Tell us about some of your offerings for travel in this region.
In the past, the North East has remained a secluded and hidden gem in the tourism circuit. However, the pandemic brought a silver lining as it encouraged people to explore their own country when international travel was restricted. This period led to a remarkable increase in awareness about the North East.

Our programmes cater to diverse interests, including cultural explorations, tribal tours, spiritual journeys, wildlife, adventurous treks, and delightful culinary tours. Each state in the North East boasts its own distinct festivals, and our immersive festival programmes ensure guests can revel in the region’s vibrant celebrations. Whether it’s immersing in cultural traditions, connecting with indigenous tribes, seeking spiritual solace, or relishing the rich biodiversity, our tours offer something unforgettable for every traveller.

The adventure travel segment in India is still a small pie of the ocean. Which are some of your top selling products in that space?
Adventure Travel is the fastest growing segment in India. Everyone now wants some element of experience which becomes a take away and something they can remember forever.

Achievement of having done something which has an element of risk is always very satisfying. The East and North East gives us the opportunity to cater to a bouquet of adventure activities from soft adventure like hiking, to medium and high altitude trekking, overnight camping experiences, wildlife and now with our operations in Andamans we are also catering to all water adventure activities as well.

Q. You have offices in offices in Kolkata, Darjeeling, Siliguri, Guwahati and recently opened one in Port Blair. Tell us about the importance of these locations for your business.
These locations are the main entry and exit points for East and North East. The international airports in East India are in Kolkata, Bagdogra and Guwahati and recently in Port Blair also the new terminal building of the international airport has been inaugurated. For us to ensure the quality of service delivery, these locations become very important strategically. We operate in a lot of remote areas with limited infrastructure, it’s always very important to ensure that the tourists are well informed, and know what to expect when they visit the secluded locations and being present in the entry points gives us the opportunity to set the expectations well for the rest of the tour.

How complex is organising a customised adventure tour, in India, and overseas, especially since it’s a niche segment?
Organising a customized adventure tour, whether in India or overseas, is a complex endeavour. It requires attention to safety protocols, in-depth product knowledge, and effective client expectation setting. Mitigating risks and having well-defined evacuation plans are crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of participants. Dealing with limited infrastructure and connectivity in remote areas demands careful planning and coordination. Building strong local partnerships with experienced guides is vital for a seamless and exceptional adventure journey. Despite the challenges, the rewarding outcome of providing clients with unforgettable experiences and personal growth opportunities makes it all worthwhile.

Q. What initiatives are being taken by ATOAI East Chapter?
We have conducted a First Aid, Survival, Rescue and CPR training at HMI in Darjeeling in January. This was initialised by ATOAI East Chapter with support from India Tourism Kolkata Office. Grp Cap Jai Kishan (Principal HMI) was very supportive and agreed to conduct the course at HMI with professional trainers. We are also planning to conduct a refresher course for the participants in the next few months.

The G20 Tourism meet on adventure was also held in Siliguri and Darjeeling. This was a great opportunity for us to showcase our region and the potential of adventure tourism in the country to government officials, adventure tour operators, travel bloggers and adventure enthusiasts.

We also have another Certification course for Adventure First Aid, CPR and Wilderness Responder to be conducted in Siliguri in January along with a seminar and a buyer – seller meet exclusively for adventure in the region so we will start planning on that soon.

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