Expect a 20-30% increase in spiritual tourism over the next five years

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, but more and more people – both in India and abroad – are grateful to have survived the first 3 waves. This scenario answered the prayers of a hard-hit tourism sector.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing the volume of spiritual and religious tourism – primarily driven by people who are grateful that they and their loved ones have survived the three waves of infection that have rocked the country and the long period of nearly 2 years. lockdown that came with it.

In a survey of over 2,000 travelers by Thomas Cook India-SOTC, 55% of respondents said they had taken a religious/spiritual tour or trip as soon as they could; 22% said they had taken a spiritual journey to seek blessings to bounce back in their professional life; and 21% visited religious destinations to express gratitude for a wedding or childbirth.

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Neeraj Singh Dev, Senior Vice President – Ecommerce India & Shorthaul Holidays, Thomas Cook India & SOTC said: “During the pandemic, people have not had a chance to leave their homes. shrines they have visited for many years or longed to visit. There were a lot of people trying to reconnect with their spiritual connections.”

Meanwhile, Neeraj Singh Dev said, “Compared to pre-pandemic levels (February to June 2019), we have increased by more than 30% in the first four months (February to June 2022) after the end of the borders.” This year’s trips started from February.

Some of the main destinations continue to be: Char Dham, Vaishno Devi Shrine, Amarnath, Varanasi, Tirupati Balaji and Shirdi.

The industry estimates that each year this segment has the potential to grow by 20-30% over the next five years. “It’s because of the way development is happening in these religious circuits,” Dev added.

However, Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) and secretary of FAITH, said it remains to be seen whether this demand will continue next season or plateau once pent-up demand is resolved.

Religious/spiritual tourism is largely dominated by domestic tourists. However, due to the growth of infrastructure in this segment, the industry hopes that the exposure of international tourists in this segment will increase in the coming years.

Yatra, an online travel agency based in Gurugram, does 20-30% of its business in the country through religious or spiritual tourism.

Religious destinations are the only places where Yatra.com hasn’t seen a lull, said Aditya Gupta, Senior Vice President, Hotels and Vacations, Yatra.com.

“We have seen an increase of around 80-90% in booking inquiries from various destinations such as Rishikesh, Dharamshala, Haridwar, Dalhousie, Ladakh, Varanasi, Allypee, Kumarakom, Coimbatore, Amritsar, Chardham Circuit, Puri and Pondicherry . Also, there is a 100% increase in hotel bookings in places like Tirupati Balaji, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Venkateswara and Dakshineshwar Kali Temple,” he added.

In upcoming destinations, the industry believes that Ayodhya attracts the most attention. In the coming times, the industry believes that the Varanasi-Prayagraj-Ayodhya circuit will gain popularity.

An emerging trend among other trends in this segment is the concept of turning religious/spiritual travel into leisure. Neeraj Singh Dev said, “There are a large number of people who not only visit these shrines but also the famous tourist destinations that are in and around this place.

There has been a change in the way tourists consume. In the past, the holiday season was high season, but now it’s spread out. Still, during peak season, it’s a challenge. For example, in Char Dham, it was difficult to book helicopter services this time around.

Mehra believes that India will reach global levels, apart from improving infrastructure, it is important that these religious or spiritual destinations are projected as 365 day destinations.

While seniors or fit seniors (aged around 60) continue to lead the market, post-pandemic millennials have also begun to explore their religious/spiritual side. But this trend is different when it comes to the Golden Temple, Gupta revealed.

The mix of elders versus others is 30:70. This is mainly because there is good infrastructure like hotels and restaurants in this destination and Amritsar is very well connected to many big cities – Tier I and Tier II cities. Other trends like Book Now Pay Later and various EMI programs are encouraging more millennials to explore this option.

First post: STI

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