THE Indian government may give the go-ahead to adventure tour operators for the use of satellite phones, with a final decision expected in the next few months.
Despite industry demands for permission to use satellite phones – previously a standard requirement to ensure the safety of adventure tourists travelling to remote areas – the government has baulked over security concerns.
However, Anand Kumar, joint secretary at India’s Ministry of Tourism, confirmed: "We are taking up the issue with Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Telecommunications. We are discussing the ways we can implement it. Allowing satellite phones is in active consideration.”
Ajeet Bajaj, founder, Snow Leopard Adventures, said: "One of the major challenges faced by adventure tour operators has been the use of satellite phones, especially in the wake of rescue and search operations.”
It is expected that the government will give the go-ahead, which will be a “major boost for the industry”, he added.
Likewise, Sanjay Basu, managing director, Far Horizon Tours, said: "The safety and security of tourists is of utmost importance when we deal with foreign tour operators. Allowing satellite phones will go a long way in addressing these issues.”
Inbound adventure tourism in India is witnessing year-on-year growth of five to seven per cent and 15 to 20 per cent year-on-year domestically.