NEW DELHI: If you’re willing to spend anything upwards of $5,000, National Geographic has a plan for you. The American television network and flagship channel is now bringing National Geographic Expeditions, its world-renowned expedition business, to India, taking the curious and adventure-seeking (and obviously prosperous) Indian for anything from a 360 degree view of the Galapagos Islands to a private jet expedition through the Northern Hemisphere, starting from the imperial Japanese capitals of Kyoto and Nara to Russian cities such as Irkutsk and St Petersburg down to the glaciers of Greenland.
“We’ve just launched the expedition business and we’re really excited about it," said Gary E. Knell, chairman, National Geographic Partners, during a visit to India.
It is not a travel company but can offer fantastic experiences like any vendor, in fact, customized, because of the society of climate scientists, marine biologists, researchers, and explorers that Nat Geo funds and nurtures who will participate in these travels and be able to share their knowledge and stories with visitors depending on location and expertise, he said.
“We know how many Indians are travelling. We think a lot of them are curious. They want to be educated, learn photography, understand the cultural and natural heritage of these places, and that’s what the National Geographic Expeditions is about," Knell said. “We’re not really targeting a particular age group but a mindset and with the growth in India and the burgeoning class of people who are traveling, this is a great offering," he said.
The National Geographic Expeditions, which has so far run in countries such as the US and the UK, offers everything from train and land journeys to private jet expeditions, activities such as kayaking and hiking, as well as history, archaeology, wildlife and nature tours, right from Antarctica to Arctic Norway and Alaska to Tanzania. Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society is a non-profit scientific and educational organization that brings out publications such as the National Geographic magazine, runs the Nat Geo TV network, makes films, TV, and radio programmes.
The UN World Tourism Organization (WTO) predicts that India will account for 50 million outbound tourists per year by 2020. Indian travelers including small-town dwellers are more open to adventure travel, and offbeat destinations like Norway and the Czech Republic are becoming popular.
In television entertainment, Nat Geo has a 30.7% share in the infotainment genre in India, according to the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data for week nine of 2019. The country is also its largest market in Asia.
Knell said the distinctiveness of India makes it a unique market to develop television and print content focused on education, environment and exploration, besides the now emerging digital space driven by photography and visual storytelling.
“There is probably no market more unique than India. This is an incredibly exciting time for the country. We have 800 million people under the age of 35 and there is an optimism here that you don’t feel in other countries," Knell said.
India is culturally rich, has amazing wildlife and has a plethora of stories around food, education, energy, and the future of cities that National Geographic would like to tell, said Knell.