Vacationers gung-ho about the great Indian outdoors

Written by Kunal Doley | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 20 2014, 05:51am hrs
IndiaThe figure stood at about 24% last year.
Indian travellers enthusiasm to add a dose of adventure to their otherwise mundane holidays is on a new high. If the findings of the recent Adventure Travel Survey undertaken by online travel portal TripAdvisor, shared exclusively with FE, are anything to go by, up to 67% of the travel enthusiasts interviewed by it are willing to engage in some adventure activity or the other while on a holiday in the next six months, up 14% from last years figure of 53%.

The adrenaline rush is also going to be at full play in the summer months ahead, with 35% of the respondents planning to engage in some extreme forms of adventure sports like bungee jumping, paragliding or sky diving. Interestingly, not only are Indians willing to experiment, as much as 62% respondents are also confident that they are absolutely fit for any form of adventure sports.

Nikhil Ganju, country manager, TripAdvisor India, said: The Adventure Travel Survey is a good indicator of adventure travel in India as far as consumer response is concerned. It clearly demonstrates that more and more Indians are willing to go all out rather than just engage in sightseeing during their holidays.

As per the survey, up to 59.87% of the respondents cited their love for varied experiences in life as one of the primary reasons for undertaking adventure activities or extreme sports, followed by seekers of thrill, excitement and sense of risk (32.47%) and a sense of achievement/accomplishment (31.03%).

Also, this year, friends remained clear winners as company on adventure travel, with 69.84% respondents claiming them as their first choice.

Understandably, the next preference remained spouses, with 40.27% respondents wanting to pursue their adventure activities with their better halves.

The survey, however, revealed that the perception of Indian adventure operators is abysmal among travellers, with over 79% respondents claiming that safety measures employed by them are not on a par with their international counterparts. Among the various reasons spelled out by the respondents for showing little or no faith in undertaking activities in India or with Indian operators, poor quality and maintenance of equipment top the list (73.14%), followed by overall low standards of safety (69.26%) and low accountability for mishaps (57.60%).

Of late, certain adventure activities are being offered at lower than nominal costs. However, the survey reveals, Indian travellers (up to 59%) would never go for such cheap trips as they directly reflect on the quality and safety standards of the operator. They would rather pay a high price and choose a trip offered by a certified operator than compromise on quality and safety, the survey finds out.

The silver lining to the trust factor comes only in the form of a slight rise in the percentage of people (34.20%) preferring to participate in adventure or extreme sport activities with an element of risk (like bungee jumping) in India and operated by an Indian company. The figure stood at about 24% last year.

This means that adventure tour operators in the country are going all out to take up the issue more seriously and to spread the message of safety among travellers, said Ganju.

In terms of numbers, Indian travellers still prefer to go easy on the hardcore adventure activities. Up to 46% of the respondents indulged in birdwatching, followed by trekking/hiking (41%) and safaris (37%) in the past six months, the survey finds out. Indians are more interested in soft adventure activities like birdwatching. There is a combination of factors for this, like the involvement of a reasonable level of risks and higher costs in the extreme sports, apart from travellers perception about Indian adventure tour operators.

This explains why, as per the survey, 63% respondents said they did not engage in any extreme sports while on a holiday in the last six months; the corresponding figure for travellers who do not want to do so even in the next six months is 30.86%.

About 58% respondents said high costs have forced them to change their mind or prevented them from undertaking certain extreme sports that require one to invest in specialised gear (like high-altitude trekking). Also, about 75% travellers interviewed by the travel portal claimed they never did any wasteful expenditure on purchasing equipment or clothing for an extreme sport that they did only once.

As far as destinations are concerned, old favourites like Goa and Rishikesh continue to occupy the top slots. Places like Goa are versatile and offer a variety of activities at the same place, hence their popularity. Andaman Islands has moved to the third spot from last years fifth, which means that Indian travellers are also looking out for offbeat destinations, says Ganju. Globally, the US, which ironically did not figure on last years list, has emerged the No. 1 choice for Indians.