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India ready for the new-age prasad

‘Bharat Darshan’ is becoming a buzzword with people keen on exploring the nook and corners of the country.

India ready for the new-age prasad


Integrating leisure and spiritual travel is the latest as pilgrimage tourism is estimated to constitute 70 per cent of tourism revenues in India. 

The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) estimates religious and pilgrimage travel component to be half of the domestic package trips and about 28 per cent constituting leisure and holiday travel. 

The Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) is an initiative of the Centre to promote religious tourism. A committee under the Ministry of Tourism has even identified 15 destinations in the Ramayana Circuit (locations perceived to have been traversed by Lord Ram), under the Swadesh Darshan scheme, to boost religious tourism. Krishna, Buddhist and spiritual circuits are among the 12 categories identified to promote religious or pilgrimage tourism.  

According to the National Sample Survey Office, in between 2007 and 2015, the number of respondents who gave emphasis to religion had risen by 11 per cent to 80 per cent now, with the average expenditure on religious trips more than doubling during the period. Now, players such as IRCTC and SOTC have been leveraging their presence and experience to tap this booming segment. 

For Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corp (IRCTC), South Indian destinations especially Madurai, Rameswaram, Kanniyakumari and Tirupati are among the most-visited religious centres, with 30 to 40 such trains coming here annually. Seeing the success of pilgrimage tourism, Rajasthan, Punjab, UP, MP and Maharashtra have also latched on to the schemes offered by IRCTC to increase revenues. 

South contributes Rs 35-40 crore annually out of IRCTC’s Rs 500 crore tourism revenue. SOTC is a subsidiary of the well known Fairfax Financial Holdings Group, which has forayed into integrated spiritual and leisure segments of travel. 

SOTC Travel MD Vishal Suri described spiritual tourism as the single largest vertical in domestic tourism that is proving to be an untapped opportunity. In a highly-fragmented space, the firm has launched ‘darshans’ whereby over 40 specially-designed religious and spiritual experiences across 60 holy destinations in India would be available for tourists.

Temple Tourism 

Religious tourism is on a high, constituting 70% of tourism revenues
Key takeaways of a SOTC survey:
* 47% have travelled on a pilgrimage tour  
Motivational factors for pilgrim tours
* 53% interested if a reputed travel operator offered their services
* 51% look for hassle-free experience as the key factor  
* 38% want sight-seeing and guided tour  
Frequency of temple tours
* 45% take a pilgrimage tour once in a year 
* 15% take a pilgrimage tour once in 6 months 
What do pilgrim tourists seek 
* 38% sought assistance to plan a pilgrimage tour 
* 19% sought assistance from a local travel agent

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