Ayodhya is India’s newest tourism destination and is shaping up just as a new destination should. With a huge focus on infrastructure, connectivity, amenities and facilities, Ayodhya is all set to change the dismal figures of tourist arrivals in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Above all, it has already changed the negative perception about the state of UP and has put our state of Uttar Pradesh in positive light.
With respect to Tourism, it will not be justified to only project Ayodhya as just a religious center as that brackets interests and limits the destination’s profile. The best projection of Ayodhya would be as a ‘Spiritual Center’ and a ‘Center of Human Idealism’, unbracketing Ayodhya from the parenthesis of religion and resonating the concept of “Ram hein Sabke Ram – jan jan ke Ram, karnd karnd mein Ram, sharnd sharnd pe Ram” (Ram belongs to all, he is for everyone. Ram is in every whit, Ram is there for us each moment).
For long in the tourism industry we have had a fixation on the golden triangle. So here we are with the newest triangle, The ‘Spiritual Triangle’ which includes, Ayodhya, Prayagraj (including Chitrakoot) and Varanasi – places that promise deep understanding of Hinduism as a way of life rather than just a religion to be followed, it is much deeper and truly existential.
The growth in tourist arrivals, at least the domestic tourists, is growing exponentially in Ayodhya. The youth of India is a very new segment of spiritual tourists which is positively giving a fillip to Ayodhya along with other spiritual destinations in India. Similarly, Ayodhya unlike yesteryears is now attractive even for the upper segment of tourists, the ones who feared visiting it earlier due to all the controversies that surrounded it and all the negative news about Ayodhya that did the rounds.
There is a huge untapped potential in the inbound market for Ayodhya as well, especially in the ‘Ramayana Countries’. Ramayana countries are those that follow Ramayana or have a connection with Lord Ram in some form or the other. These include, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan, China, Tibet and Khotan Kingdom in Asia and then there are Mauritius, Trinidad Tobago, Fiji, South Africa and Netherlands to name just a few. Add to this the Indian diaspora in Europe, Americas, Africa and Australia. This is a huge untapped inbound market waiting to be tapped for Ayodhya and the rest of ‘Spiritual Triangle’. If planned seriously, this can give Ayodhya’s tourism yet another dimension.
With all the development in and around Ayodhya, it is imperative that we begin to see Ayodhya’s profile as that of a two night destination, shunning its image of being only a day excursion or just as an ‘compulsive overnight’ (when night stays are unavoidable and not by choice) destination. Often religious destinations in India, thrive and focus all their efforts on one main temple or at the most a very few countable others. Such profile of a destination only limits its economic capabilities and diminishes tourism potential. To counter this, it is important to have early morning & evening activities. These may include some experiences related to spirituality such as walking tours, story sessions, river entertainment, light & sound shows, live musical & theatrical performances et al. Too much focus on just one temple visit may reduce Ayodhya’s overall importance as a city and may reduce ‘tourist time spent’ in the city. With a lot to see and do, tourists are lured to stay in the destination longer, beyond their main purpose which of course is Ram Janam Bhoomi Temple. It is also important that we explore, develop and market the surrounding excursions. Very few would know that in case of Ayodhya, there is Chapiya (30 minutes drive), birth place of Swami Narayan, then there is Kodar, the Birth place of the father of Yoga, Maharishi Patanjali (40 minutes drive), similarly, only 2 hours away from Ayodhya is Maghar, where Saint Kabir’s memorial stands.
There is no denying that the Government has done immense work to make Ayodhya, India’s Newest Destination, and that too in a time bound manner, for the pilgrims and tourists to experience Ayodhya in its new form.
Tourism stake holders are upbeat about tourism in the state of Uttar Pradesh in the times to come and particularly happy to see Ayodhya the way it has shaped up in the last five years.
Prateek Hira is the President & CEO of Tornos, a tour company operating since 1994 and having Ayodhya in its portfolio since 2015. Tornos has a distinction of being Ayodhya’s first and only tour company, establishing its own office there in 2020.
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