Indian travelers are giving ordinary touristy experiences a pass in favour of the excitement and uniqueness offered by adventure tourism.
Over the last couple of years, more and more travelers are picking out adventure tourism, a trend that has completely changed the face of traditional travel and hospitality norms in India and abroad, and one that is only expected to grow further in the coming years.
New-age travellers are seeking excitement over run-of-the-mill touristy experiences, which might explain the boom in adventure activities like paragliding, trekking, Zipline, Skycycle, Burma bridge, Banchak Tripolin, paintballing etc. Hospitality giants are also creating curated farm-to-fork experiences, cooking with chefs and wellness activities like yoga and customised spa treatments to woo guests who are looking for something extra and unique while travelling.
A recent report reveals that Andhra Pradesh tourism marked a new high with a 130 per cent growth in the adventure tourism economy. The report mentions that adventure sports in Krishna and Godavari rivers are drawing a large number of tourists to the state, while the popularity of long excursions has also gone up.
Sandeep Reddy, GM at Andhra Art & Craft Hotel explains, “Tourism has changed from a mere flight, food and room service to a multi-sensory experience. About thirty years ago, we saw the advent of boutique hotels — a creation of Ian Schrager, who is considered as the founder of boutique hotels. A decade later came the art hotels. The first art hotel to come up in India was Le Sutra in Mumbai, where 120 designers, sculptors and artists came together. Inspired by that, we conceptualised the world’s first art and craft hotel in Visakhapatnam, created exclusively by artisans from Andhra Pradesh. The hotel showcases the essence of the state while promoting local culture.”
He adds, “Guests visiting Vizag usually request to visit places like Araku, short trips to art/craft villages like Etikoppaka and time their travel around skating and marathon events.”
With the growth in disposable income, people are taking more vacations, exploring newer destinations and even returning to their favorite destinations to explore further.
Manu Rishi Guptha, CEO, Niraamaya Retreats in Kerala, points out that most guests come looking for bespoke experiences such as yoga, cooking classes with the chef, village life excursions, pottery classes, visit to a local fish market etc.
“The most popular requests which we get are for yoga, cooking classes, renewal of vows and backwater boat ride dinners. They start from as low as Rs 1,500 per person to upwards of Rs 1 lakh for rare experiences,” says Guptha.
With people wanting to have new experiences, there also appears to be a shift towards getting more out of a holiday. “A number of activities such as adventure rope course, mountain biking, rock climbing and rappelling, orienteering etc is part of the itinerary at most of our locations and all of them are guided by certified instructors. We also have paintball, car racing, sports and games at all our properties,” informs Harish Sharma, GM at Aamod Resorts, adding, “We recently set up a space observatory in association with Stargate Observatory at our Alwar and Kausani locations, where guests can not only gaze at stars endlessly but also participate in scheduled “star parties” with experts to witness meteor showers and space events.”
Planned itineraries are the future for leisure destinations, with a bespoke itinerary now covered in tailor-made individual stays. Shiv Kr. Mehan, COO at Leisure Hotels Group, says, “Adventure tourism is an exchange with the local culture and landscape interspersed with nature activities. While many properties offer archery, meditation, croquet and water sports, wildlife safaris, mountain drives, treks into the wilderness to experience pristine natural spots such as lakes or waterfalls, water rafting, climbing and biking are some of the other activities. Activities are nominally priced and could range from Rs 2,000 to 10,000.”
Digvijay Singh, owner of Ashdale boutique hotel in Nainital, narrates the history of the summer home of the royal family of Sahaspur Bilar, which was renovated in 2018 into a boutique hotel with all modern amenities. “Since Ashdale is nestled between the Ayar and Cheena hills on either side, there are picturesque treks around this property. We have partnered with Wildrift Adventures to provide experiences such as guided cycling trails, camel back treks, Cheena Peak trek with an altitude of 8,579 ft. One of the most memorable curated experiences is yacht racing at the famous lake in Nainital,” he explains.
Wellness and Healing
Adventure is not just restricted to trying extreme sports, it also involves exploring their inner power and healing with nature. No wonder that a huge segment of Indian tourism now focuses on wellness and treatment-based experiential activities.
Geeta Ramesh, Joint MD at Kairali Ayurvedic Group informs, “Activities like yoga, cooking demos and garden/walk experience are included in almost all of our packages whereas trips for local sightseeing, shopping experiences, tours to the Silent Valley National Park, reservoir dam, and wildlife sanctuary can be arranged for `3,000 to 4,000 on request.”
The current trend in travel is about experiences that allow a guest to rediscover their true self, remarks Manoj Khetan, co-founder of Naad Wellness. “Guests come looking for life-altering healing experiences. Some of the outdoor activities which help in
bringing balance to the mind, body, and spirit are aerial yoga and walk on a pebbled reflexology track. During the stay, we also include consultation with our resident doctors,
treatments and wellness cuisine as part of our healing series,” says Khetan.
While living in a historical home or experiencing a royal lifestyle in a heritage property is one of the most sought after experiences, tourists are now willing to shell out extra sums of money to blend luxury with adventure activities in historical hotels too.
Binny Sebastian, GM at Alila Fort Bishangarh, says guests look out for a quality travel experience, and adds, “We encourage guests to discover the city and experience the local life, culture, and craft traditions of Bishangarh — a day at the dairy will take you on the journey of milk from farm to fridge and the warrior's horse can make you relive the royal days of the Shekhawati dynasty. The most popular requests at the fort however, are to experience the chef's MasterClass, the organic garden experience and a rural tour, which can cost between `1,000 to 40,000, depending on the experience.”
Surprisingly, adventure tourism is not just restricted to youngsters but travelers who are in their 40s or 50s too, mentions Sanjeev K Nayar, GM of WelcomHeritage Group. He informs, “Right from a village tour on a tractor to kite flying, outdoor barbeque, turban tying, royal horse buggy ride, sand dune drives and nature walks - depending on the location, we provide these activities for the guests. We have Kasmanda Palace, one of the oldest buildings of Mussoorie built in 1836 which is now a heritage property. Similarly, at Judge’s Court in Pragpur which is located in India's first heritage village, one can stay at the 300-year-old ancestral cottage in the medieval hamlet.”
Apart from outdoor adventures, exclusive luxury and niche experiences form a part of this segment too. Suman Gahlot, GM of Aloft New Delhi Aerocity, reveals, “Guests look for offbeat experiences and I do see a significant rise of planned itineraries right now and in the coming years. From artistic gourmet to introduction to master artworks and sculptures — we provide activities where guests can learn about heirloom to handicrafts, vintage cars to Venetian art, artwork to antiques and enjoy a huge amount of personal collection at our artistic lounge by Conferro Heritae.”
Significantly, the exponential growth in the adventure tourism sector has led to an increase in online bookings, and a large number of travelers prefer booking experiential travel without any hassle. Heena J Akhtar, co-Founder of e-commerce travel portal Tripxoxo, mentions, “The most popular activities trending currently are acrobatic paragliding, Zorbing, rainforest ziplining, valley crossing, mountain trekking, bungee jumping, kayaking and cycling — ranging from `1,000 to 3 lakh per activity. A lot of people prefer going to unexplored places such as river rafting in Kolad, scuba diving and snorkelling at Tarkarli, three-lake trek in Manali, banana boat ride in Goa, bike tours in Spiti valley, kayaking at Kalote lake and Harihareshwar Beach holiday. Helicopter rides, yacht sailing, private scuba dives, snorkeling and snow leopard expeditions are some of the more unique options.”
Akhtar adds, “Some of the most expensive adventure activities are balloon flights with breakfast and the falcon show which is around Rs 3,07,760, while the Abu Dhabi Formula1 goes for Rs 82,990 and sky diving is Rs 47,250.”
All-in-all, a vacation in 2019 is not just about check-ins anymore because it comes with an itinerary that will keep you on your toes. Ready to book your next vacay yet?