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Past couple of years has witnessed an unprecedented surge of innovation in various tourism segments and transformation in many business areas in global and Indian travel and tourism industry. The global economic slowdown pushed industry players to look for new avenues to bolster the bottom lines and also provide more value add ons to end customers in order to give them a good reason to travel. Innovation has become the key to success in this age and for the Indian travel sector innovation has been mainly in the form of going niche.
Niche tourism is the in-thing today as the industry offers Wine Tourism, Pop Culture Toursim, Medical Tourism, Gay Tourism, Cruise Tourism and much more. There are myriad categories of niche tourism available today and tour companies are willing to customize the itinerary according to the travelers convenience. According to an official of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, with diversity in culture and tourism products, each state in India can be promoted as a country.
After exploring the popular and globally well known destinations in Rajasthan and Kerala, international travelers are moving to other parts of India to explore other offerings like heritage sites, religious sites, rural parts, adventure sports, Welness Tourism, medical services, etc. Mot is coming out with various initiatives to promote the niche segments like Monsoon Tourism, Medical and Wellness Tourism, Sustainable Tourism, Road Tourism etc. to make Incredible India a huge success stated the official.
Niche Segments gaining ground
Concept of Niche Tourism has been popular in the Western world for the past decade, while in India it is a recent phenomena, which is gaining momentum. Cultural Tourism, Heritage Tourism and Adventure Tourism are among the major and popular segments of Niche Tourism in India, both with domestic and foreign travelers. The concept of Rural Tourism, Sustainable Tourism, Responsible Tourism and Ecotourism though at a nascent stage have emerged as one of the most potential segments with travelers desiring to explore the rural parts of India. Among the niche tourism segments the two that have made the biggest inroads are Medical and Wellness and Adventure Tourism.
Medical Tourism : It is an emerging segment which has helped Incredible India place itself on the global tourism map. With an aim to project India as a global health care destination, India has also introduced Medical Visa to simplify travel procedures for overseas medical travelers. Aprt from the high-tech modern medical facilities the Indian medical treatment also includes Ayurveda, Panchakarma, yoga and rejuvenation therapy, which is part of Wellness Tourism. The country today has numerous stand alone spa resorts and many leading global spa brands have their presence in five start hotels across the country. Apart from attracting international travelers, Wellness Tourism has been enjoying growing popularity among the high-end domestic tourists.
Even state tourism boards and MoT have identified these as segments with huge potentioal and have been promoting and developing them through various initiatives. Recently Subodh Kant Sahay, Union Minister for Tourism released the guidelines for wellness centres. The guidelines for wellness centres have been developed by National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Services and approved by Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, The wellness centres accredited as per these guidelines will give high level of confidence to the tourists. Accreditation standards for wellness centres provide framework for quality of care for customers and wuality improvement for the centres, NABH standard has tem chapters incorporating 84 standard and 396 objective elements.
Adventrue Tourism : India is a One Stop Adventure Shop is how Akshay Kumar, General Secretary, Adventure Tours Operators Association of India terms the potential of the segment. Only in India can a person indulge in a camel safari in deserts of Rajasthan, Heli-Ski in the Himalayas, raft down the mighty Ganges and trek in the Garhwal Himalayas, all in the same month. Adventure Tourism is the fastest growing niche segment in India and in this increasingly encironment conscious world, adventure sports and eco tours will be the boom of the 21stcentury emphasized Kumar.
An array of soft adventure activities are available across the country like white water river rafting trekking, rock climbing, snorkeling, paragliding, not air ballooning, wild life safaris etc. and are becoming increasingly popular even among domestic tourists. The trend today is on more on experiential holidays and that has boosted Adventure Tourism in a big way. “Inbound tourists were till recently the bread and butter of the adventure tourism industry in India accounting for 85 per cent of all adventure tourists. However, there has been a noticeable increase in domestic tourists in the past couple of years. Even though the limited inbound market pays much more, the Indian domestic market is vast and stable, does not get affected by local disturbances, stated Kumar. Most tourism proactive states are today focusing on developing and promoting Adventure Tourism in a big way and the number of private players servicing this segment has also grown. The worry factor is lack of skilled man power, which is resulting in dropping of safety standards and shortage of specific policies and developments plan to boost this segment and achieve its full potential.
Indian travel suppliers are not leaving any stone unturned to tap travelers of niche segments through various packages and innovative products. For instance, sports has always been a big passion among Indians and the travel trade has tried to en cahed on sporting events like Indian Premier Leagur and the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup by merging sports with holidays to attract family, youth and incentive segments.
However, despite the big craze for the game of cricker, sports Tourism and other potentioal niche segments and products have been ignored. For instance, Photographic Tourism, Accessible Tourism (Inclusive Tourism), Monsoon Tourism, Gay Tourism, Caravan Tourism, Wine Tourism, Cuisine Tourism, Shopping Tourism etc.
Realising the Potential MoT issued guidelines for HeliTourism and Caravan Tourism to improve the service standards of the industry. Considering the diverse trourism products and the multitude of landscapes in India, Caravancs and caravan parks have the potential to add a new facet to Incredible India and attract wide range of market segments including youth, families, senior citizens and inbound travelers. To improve the connectivity of North Eastern region of India. Mot is working towards promoting Heli-Tourism.
With destinations transcending the imagined horizonz, todays travelers expectations are also increasing. According to Gaur Kajilal, Executive Director IATO operators considering to sell niche products should have certain focus. He said For selling niche tourism products, the business model of a tour operator required immense specialization and research. The customers group for Niche Toursim is most likely to be small. It comprises of people with prcise expectations. Satisfaction leverl for a well conducted tour is high and business prospects improve through world of mouth.
Moreover, the day is not far when space travel will be the biggest travel trend in the world. Technology innovation will soon make it possible to have air-ships a s hotels, either solar-powered airplanes or large difigibles. The sky is not the limit and travel service providers have to constantly focus on innovation and niche products to keep their business prospects and profits on an upward trajectory.