Spiritual tourism soars to new heights, ET TravelWorld News, ET TravelWorld


<p>Karthick Prabu, Head of Strategy, Cleartrip</p>
Karthick Prabu, Head of Strategy, Cleartrip

India is home to diverse and enriching spiritual destinations across a spectrum of faiths. While spiritual tourism has always been integral to India’s travel experience, the inauguration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has significantly accelerated spiritual tourism and increased the spotlight on it.

Pilgrimage tourism in India earned per cent1.3 lakh crore in 2022, as compared to per cent0.65 lakh crore in 2021, according to the Ministry of Tourism. Post-renovation, the Kashi Vishwanath Dham in Varanasi experienced an unprecedented rise in footfall, attracting 70 million visitors last year, a dramatic increase from the roughly 8 million who visited in the preceding year, demonstrating the growth of spiritual tourism year on year. It is to be noted that 5 per cent of international travel is attributed to pilgrimage reasons.

Post-pandemic, “Staycations” were trending and witnessed great adoption among travellers. Numerous hotels rolled out staycation packages at attractive prices. Now, post Ayodhya, “Praycations” are gaining significant momentum across all age groups and will gradually scale.

The Ayodhya Impact
Just a few days before the opening of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, at Cleartrip, we saw over 1500 per cent increase in search volumes for Ayodhya across the platform.

Apart from Ayodhya, other notable pilgrimage destinations such as Mathura, Bhopal, Tirupati, and Shirdi have seen over 40 per cent increase in flight bookings in Cleartrip in 2023 compared to 2022. For hotel bookings, destinations such as Mathura, Dwarkadhish, Katra, Kochi, Bodhgaya, Amritsar, Ujjain, and Haridwar have seen over 150 per cent increase in bookings in 2023 compared to 2022. Cleartrip’s hotel bookings have grown by 70 per cent 2023 compared to 2022 among all key pilgrimage destinations.

Initiatives to support increasing demand
With an increasing demand for spiritual destinations, the overall infrastructure development, air/road/rail connectivity to these destinations, stay options, and experiential travel options among others are also improving.

According to Jefferies, a financial advisory firm, Ayodhya is seeing an investment of $10 billion and is expected to attract 50 million tourists per year.

Hotel chains such as IHCL, Marriott, OYO, and Sarovar have already announced plans to increase their hotel capacity in Ayodhya and other key pilgrimage destinations.

In 2015, the government announced the PRASHAD scheme – Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive – to develop the country’s tourism infrastructure, including historical places and heritage cities. The scheme aimed at the creation of pilgrimage/spiritual tourism infrastructure development at the pre-identified 73 destinations in 31 States/UTs. GOI has sanctioned projects worth $200 million as of December 2023.

Govt bid to attract foreigners with Buddhist tourism push

To attract foreign tourists to Odisha, the state government is planning to showcase its Buddhist heritage at the fifth edition of the three-day Odisha Travel Bazaar (OTB), which is scheduled to start from Wednesday at Eco Retreat in Konark. While spiritual tourism will be the highlight of the event following temple renovation projects, the government will also showcase the tourism potential in beaches, wildlife, heritage and monuments and eco-tourism.

Opportunities that are still untapped
Planning and booking for a pilgrimage or spiritual trip still largely happens offline in India. It also has to do with the specific needs of this segment of travel where day-use hotel rooms are needed for a quick shower, purchase of darshan items and prasad, preference for specific time slots for darshan, the need to cover a religious circuit and not just one destination and more.

Information about spiritual trips is spread across multiple websites, among offline travel agents, and mostly among friends and family.

There is a clear need to bring multiple services online to boost the growth of this segment – spiritual travel-related information online across all content formats, the ability to book darshan slots, increase the selection of accommodation options, offer end-to-end travel needs, offer local experiences and outdoor activities for spiritual travellers, and offer customisable tour packages. OTAs will play a large role in this digital transformation.

The author is the Head of Strategy, Cleartrip, leading online travel company.

The views expressed are solely of the author and ETTravelWorld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETTravelWorld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.

  • Published On Feb 13, 2024 at 09:25 AM IST

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