Uttarakhand drafted Tourism Policy 2016 and sought public comments. We have reviewed the policy and we think that the following adventure tourism issues deserve special attention.
Comment 1: Overlapping in Tourism Theme Classification
A contact point is required to facilitate direct interactions between adventure tourism professionals and adventure tourists.
Theme 1: Adventure & Watersports
Theme 2: Nature & Wildlife
Theme 3: Sightseeing
Watersports and wildlife are risky action-packed leisure activities. Therefore, they are adventure activities. These may be made sub themes of the adventure theme. Most of the adventure activities also take place in scenic natural areas. Thus, adventure is a part of nature theme and vice-versa. This overlapping has some disadvantages. For example, collecting theme-specific data will be difficult. Chalking out a theme-specific marketing policy will get affected.
Another example, major destinations for nature and wildlife theme include Nanda Devi National Park, a high altitude national park, and Govind Wildlife Sanctuary, a high altitude wildlife sanctuary. Trails within these areas, especially for wildlife spotting are rough and require trekking and walking and even climbing. So these destinations are adventure destinations.
Valley of Flowers does not fit in sightseeing theme. A visit to the Valley of Flowers requires moderate-hard trekking that is an adventure activity. The valley therefore may be promoted as an adventure destination. If a road network sprawls in the valley, it will not remain Valley of Flowers.
Comment 2: Data Collection for Adventure Tourism Segment
The policy recommends collection of data about tourism. The Uttarakhand tourism policy maker may like to lay down ways to collect data and methods to check the reliability of data.
To collect reliable data for adventure tourism segment, standardize the segment definition and scope.
Regularly collect data from private and public stakeholders who organize different adventure activities.
Collecting data for these activities, especially conducted in permit-controlled destinations, is easier. The permit authority may provide the activity specific data.
In the remaining tourist areas, data collection centers may be set up at the starting points. For example, at the last road head from where the trek starts.
A reliable source of data collection is the first step in creating a balance sheet for sustainable adventure tourism development. Data collection will help in knowing the real situation and making effective plans for future course of action.
Comment 3: Skill Development and Contact Point for Adventure Tourism Professionals and Adventure Tourists
The policy has devoted one section to “Human Resource and Skill Development.” However, it does not cover dedicated skill development measures for labor intensive adventure tourism segment. There is a real shortage of reliable adventure tourism professionals, including trekking guides, porters, and camping staff. The national training institutes identified may create training modules for the above type of adventure tourism service providers.
A contact point is required to facilitate direct interactions between adventure tourism professionals and adventure tourists. For example, for a short trek, tourists may only need a multitasker trekking guide. The tourists may not need an adventure tour operator, the middle man.
The contact point may have updated database of adventure tourism professionals who are willing to work on call at least during peak season. The existing tourist helpline can also provide the latest data.
This contact point may be initially set up in trekking destinations.
Comment 4: Need for Reliable Mountain Guides, Pack Animal Owners, Porters
The policy discusses about training naturalists. But it does not talk about mountain guides, pack animal owners, and porters. These three play a crucial role in labor intensive adventure tourism segment. And these groups also create many problems which require immediate solutions if the State wants to reap the benefits of the mass adventure tourism.
Porter Related Problems Faced by Thrill Seekers
A common problem is that the porters disappear from the trail without informing, leaving the visitors high and dry. I have personally experienced this. I have read and heard about these type of incidences from other thrill seekers. Many porters disappear even when they are paid the price quoted by them or current market rate.
Problems Faced by Porters
The common cited problems are: The porters are not treated well. Porters are paid less. But how much is less or more? A cap on porterage and revision at regular intervals may help in resolving the issue. And what perks they deserve should also be clearly spelt out.
And the same is true about packed animal owners because they are also involved in the business of porterage.
Unorganized adventure-activity-porter market requires ground level work if we want to reap the benefits of the large scale adventure tourism. So the Himalayan-state tourism policy, especially a dedicated adventure tourism policy, must elaborate on this aspect.
Ethics and Training for Porters
For example, we always talk about ethics for trekkers, mountaineers, paragliders, rafters… But do we ever talk about ethics for porters? Probably never.
Curriculum of porters’ training module may focus on acquiring professional attitude and learning about commitment to attract regular repeat sales that will bring them regular income.
Classification of Porters
A Regulatory Framework
The policy does not discuss visitor’s feedback and complaints redressal mechanism for adventure tourism segment. Setting up an easy and efficient mechanism would resolve disputes between porters and thrill seekers. It would indirectly act as a preventive measure and encourage adventure activity.
How Will Suggested Changes Help in Achieving Policy Objectives?
This will help in meeting the two objectives of the policy:
Ensure unmatched tourist experience.
Develop tourist friendly destinations.
And I have one question, why does everyone charge more to foreign visitors than to Indian visitors? For example, Uttarakhand charges high mountaineering fee to climbers from the foreign countries vis-à-vis the fee charged to the Indian climbers.
Are we offering anything extra to foreign visitors?