Religious Tourism in India

Definition of religious tourism

Religious tourism can be defined as travel with the core motive of experiencing religious forms, or ancillary products such as art, culture, etc. India is an ancient civilization and boasts of rich cultural and religious heritage. In India, in the blog, we shall analyze the International scenario of Religious tourism and the scope of Religious tourism in India. Religious tourism is a significant and rapidly growing segment within the tourism industry. It is sometimes referred to as faith tourism, faith-based travel, Christian travel, Muslim travel, or any other religious denomination linked with the words ‘travel’ or ‘tourism’.

International scenario of Religious tourism:

As a sector, religious tourism is not well researched and documented. But in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, religious tourism is the most significant type of tourism, and consequently the authorities measure it as a clearly defined activity.

Saudi Arabia:

Mecca city saudi arabia

Mecca city saudi arabia

More than 7m pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia’s holy sites every year with religious tourists spending about US$10,000 per visit. The revenue from the pilgrims to the holy city of Makkah, Madinah and other religious sites in the kingdom, accounts for about 3 percent of the kingdom’s gross domestic product


Jersusalem- Israel

Jersusalem- Israel

In 2013, more than 3.5 million tourists visited Israel. Twenty-two percent defined the goal of their visit to Israel as a pilgrimage which accounts for almost 0.77 million religious tourists.

Religious tourism in India:

India is a land of pilgrimages. India has the unique distinction of being the birth-place of four important religions of the world – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Practically, all religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism , Sikhism and Sufism have their major and minor pilgrimage centers in different parts of the country. Apart from the holy rivers and the teerth sthanas, India also houses the Shakti Peeths, the Jyotirlingas as well as the four sacred shrines of Adi Shankaracharya in the four corners of the country. Some important circuits based on the importance of the religious places can be identified. According to a recent annual report by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), 2014 is expected to be a year of “above-average growth” for travel and tourism in India. WTTC’s Annual Economic Impact Report 2014 for India shows travel and tourism’s economic contribution is expected to grow by 7.3 percent this year, outperforming the general economy by 2.5 percentage points. Revenue from domestic tourism is expected to increase by 8.2 percent this year compared to 5.1 percent in 2013, the report noted.

Initiatives taken by the Government to boost Religious tourism

With a view to overcome challenges, facilitate travel to and stay at religious places, The Ministry of Tourism has already identified 35 destinations in phase I and shall cover another 89 destinations in phase II. The historic places associated with these religions are spread all over the country. Both foreign and domestic tourists would like to visit more than one place of their religion if proper planning and requisite facilities are made available to them. These religious circuits would cover Hinduism, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh and Sufi circuits. 

Integrated Tourism Circuits:

Buddhist Circuit:

buddhism religion

buddhism religion

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Expanding horizon of Medical Tourism in India: An opportunity for Bed and Breakfast too!

While conducting a survey of various Bed and Breakfast units, it was found that most of the B&B units do not have viable business. The reasons for the same are not far to seek if we analyze the data available on the Incredible India website and Immigration reports.

Mainly 3 types of tourists arrive in India/Delhi:
1. Foreign tourist who visit India for recreational purposes
2. General category who come here for business/visiting friends or relatives etc.
3. Medical tourists

disabled icon

disabled icon

Out of 6.6 million FTA (2012 figures of Incredible India),

22.5% come for Business purposes.
27% come to visit friends/relatives
27% come for leisure/holidays and recreation.

US leads the highest proportion of tourists visiting friends and relatives (46%) followed by Australasia (42%)
Interestingly, China (65%) and Japan (60%) top the list of tourist arrival for business purpose.

Medical Tourist Arrival in India

The citizens of countries that visit India for Medical purposes are mainly from Maldives (59% of 50,000 visitors), Nigeria (29% of 37000 visitors), Iraq (33% of 39000 visitors), Afghanistan (16% of 95000 visitors), Oman (11% of 50000 visitors), UAE (8% of 41000 visitors).

Medical Tourist arrival in India

Medical Tourist arrival in India

According to Hindustan Times article ‘India among World’s top 5 Medical tourism hotspots’ dated 26th July 2014, the Medical tourism industry is set to grow to $ 6 billion by 2018 due to skilled doctors, better infrastructure, facilities and low treatment cost.

Hindustan times medical tourism

Hindustan times medical tourism

“More tourists are coming to India because cost of treatment here is much less compared to the US and the European countries. We are also trying to integrate medical tourism with normal tourism,” said Parvez Dewan, secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.

According to 2012 figures, Delhi boasts of specialty hospitals with strong clinical care and medical institute, which have state of the art technology and medical equipments. The city receives approximately 25,200 numbers of foreign patients coming to the city. The patients from Mauritius, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Myanmar are mostly seeking specialties in Cosmetic Surgery & Dental, Bariatric Surgery (Gastric Banding), Joint Replacements & Spine, Cardiology, Cancer, IVF, Multi-Organ Transplants visited the hospital for low cost surgeries.

Heart Surgery in US cost USD 60,000 where as in India its cost in $ 6,500.
Bone Marrow Transplant in US costs 250,000 (US $) and in India it is $ 35,000, Liver Transplant in US costs 300,000 (US $) and in India it costs $ 55,000, Joint Replacements in US cost 50,000 (US $) and in India it costs $ 8,000 and Cosmetic Surgery in US costs 20,000 (US $) and in India it costs $ 2,000.

Medical treatment cost comparison

Medical treatment cost comparison

In the past, the experts of Apollo hospitals have urged the government to conceptualize and launch a campaign on the lines of ‘Incredible India’, in order to Brand India as the top quality health care destination for medical tourists. At present, medical tourists from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Tanzania face difficulty in obtaining visa and safe and secure accommodation in India.




As per report published in “The Business Standard on 22.8.2013, the Indian Medical Tourism sector is also eyeing a large chunk of big outbound medical tourism likely to emanate out of America following the implementation of “Obamacare”. The official name for “ObamaCare” is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). It is also commonly referred to as Obama care, health care reform, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Under USA medical insurance provisions, two million US citizens are now likely to go abroad for cheaper treatment as against only 85000 in last two years. The share of incoming US medial tourists to India is only 3%. This share is likely to increase due to the fact that US citizen will be driven mainly by cost factors of ten fold or more cost saving as per article uploaded on website by Harvard Law School. If India is able to provide such treatment of high quality at affordable rates, the percentage of incoming medical tourists from USA is likely to be 5% i.e. an increase from 2550 (@3% of 85000) to 1 lakh (@ 5% of 2 million).

As per report of the Business Standard on 22nd August 2013, SAARC countries account for 36%, Africa 26%, West Asia 26% the US & Europe contribute to 3 percent foreign patients respectively out of total one million incoming foreign medical tourists.

Opportunity for B&B Owners:

Delhi B&B owners, particularly those having homes near hospitals like Apollo, Medanta, Medicity, Global Health, Escorts, Fortis have excellent opportunity to grab this market for accommodation. In fact good number of existing B&B units are already taking advantage of it.

What the future of Medical Tourism holds for B&B industry:

The future of medical tourism will undoubtedly flourish under the B&B scheme, provided the owners publicize their properties on websites, take help of various on-line agencies and start on line accommodation reservation.

Disabled via

Disabled via

In absence of specific accessibility facilities available in most commercial accommodations or at present in Bed & Breakfast establishments, a large number of disabled persons and medical tourists are not able to enjoy stay in the city. Since number of such disabled tourists coming to Delhi are certainly more than 2.5% i.e. 65000 of total foreign tourist arrivals in Delhi in a year, any extra facility extended and publicized either through word of mouth or through internet will make a good marketing and promotional tool for B&B owners to promote their business in more efficient manner.

Bed and Breakfast offers a relaxing environment

Bed and Breakfast offers a relaxing environment

Additionally, B&B accommodation is able to provide a favorable place near the hospital providing a cool and relaxing environment for rest and convalesce. The stay of these guests on a visit to the hospital for treatment requires longer stay for rest and convalesce, and for post-operative checkups, monitoring, healing etc. that takes several weeks and requires a comfortable stay suitably home away from home. These guests may prefer B&B accommodation because of above-mentioned reasons. If accommodation is `accessible’ and medical tourists friendly, it creates more market for B&B accommodation for such target people.

disabled travelers via

disabled travelers via

In nutshell, the B&B stay option for incoming disabled or medical tourist is cost effective by 30% than regular hotels. Such niche tourists come with at least an attendant and do not come for a short stay in Delhi. As mentioned above, the Medical tourists in particular need longer stay for the accompanying relatives. These relatives need personal care and emotional support, which can only be taken care of by owners’ family. Since hotels have limitations in providing personal care and disabled friendly facility, the B&B owners desirous to attract more business through such niche market, can create these specialized facilities.

Marketing of B&B

Marketing of B&B

However, proper marketing strategy is needed by owners to tap this market, which is beneficial to both stakeholders.


Government authorities should keep a watch that no untoward incident should happen due to unscrupulous service provider from amongst the medical tourism industry stakeholders due to which a negative sentiment arises. This might lead to an adverse change of perception of India as a medical tourism destination.
Thus, there is a need for medical tourism industry to practice self regulation.

PhD thesis, “Role of bed and breakfast scheme of Delhi in development of Tourism in Delhi” by Dr. G G Saxena
Gaur Sunil., Saxena Susheel, “Report on First International Summit on Health & Wellness Tourism”, 2013, Delhi Tourism & Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC), Tourism Section, May 2nd

Ahoy! Happy World Tourism Day

Many people associate tourism with a recreational activity but as per UNWTO, Tourism is a people-based economic activity built on social interaction. It prospers if it engages the local population by contributing to social values.

World Tourism Day

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) declared 27 September the World Tourism Day with the purpose to raise the awareness of the global community about the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, economic and political value. World Tourism Day (WTD) is a global observance to highlight tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value.

The theme of this year’s World Tourism Day is Tourism and Community Development which is sync with the Bed and Breakfast scheme.

UNWTO Theme WTD 2014

UNWTO Theme WTD 2014

Tourism and Bed & Breakfast industry

The Bed and Breakfast industry is not a new concept in the world though it is adopted as a novel idea in the B&B scheme of “Incredible India” over the age old practice of “paying guest accommodation in India”. As per figures of foreign tourist arrival as mentioned in (MoT, Statistics at a Glance, 2012), in countries like France (8.02%), USA (6.3%), China (5.57%), Spain (5.57%), Italy (4.48%) where maximum percentage of foreign tourists arrive every year the shortage of regular commercial accommodation is met by the B&B stays prevalent in these countries but in different modes.

UNWTO Definition of Tourism

UNWTO Definition of Tourism

According to Caroll Cathy, an author of “Travel Weekly”, the utility of B&B type accommodation is increasing as many business travelers are finding that B&B inns suit their needs, and owners are furnishing these guests such equipments as private telephones and computer connection.

The ‘B&B stay’ concept helps in saving huge additional infrastructure costs towards construction of hotels, recycling of waste water, electricity generation ,and  cutting of trees etc. and other materials required for creating additional facilities for accommodation.

Bed and Breakfast logo

Bed and Breakfast

In a country like India, additional land for constructing more hotels is made available by shrinking of forest land, cutting of trees, generation of more electricity & water etc. In Delhi, there is always a shortage of accommodation particularly in budget category during the period of various festivals, carnivals, conventions, functions, national and international conferences etc. These events are generally planned from September to March every year where large number of foreign and domestic tourists arrive in Delhi thereby increasing the demand for more accommodation.

Celebrations in India

Celebrations in India

This day last year

I remember clearly that on this day, last year, as the Managing Director, Delhi Tourism (DTTDC), our Department had facilitated the shooting of the upcoming Rajkumar Hirani’s Bollywood movie PK (Peekay), best known for its Nude-Aamir-Khan poster, in the bustling streets of Delhi by getting the various permissions from various departments.

PK poster- Aamir Khan

PK poster- Aamir Khan

To appreciate our effort, the crew of Peekay held a dinner for Delhi Tourism where we interacted with Aamir Khan, his son, Mr Rajkumar Hirani, Anoushka Sharma and other members.

with Aamir Khan

with Aamir Khan

Interesting facts Bed and Breakfast establishments in Delhi

In a recent survey of around 50 Bed and Breakfast establishments (out of about 350 total B&Bs), some interesting facts were revealed. There is a group of substantial number of domestic tourists who stayed in lower tariff of B&B units at Rs. 1500 to Rs. 2000 per month (equivalent to US 25$ to 34$). These are generally those tourists who came to Delhi for pilgrimage. However, most of domestic and foreign tourists stayed in the tariff range of Rs. 3500 – Rs. 4500 (US 60$ – US 70$) per night. Average stay of tourists was 3 days in Delhi. Most of the B&B units are located in South Delhi particularly in Vasant Kunj, CR Park, Greater Kailash, Hauz Khas, East of Kailash and Kailash Colony. Out of total foreign tourists staying in B&B units, majority are from USA & UK (20%), followed by Australia (13%), Germany (12%) & France (11%). Chinese tourists seem to avoid B&B establishments). These tourists, generally, visit three world heritage sites in Delhi namely, Red Fort, Qutub Minar and Humayun Tomb.

Red Fort in Delhi

Red Fort in Delhi

Qutub Minar in Delhi

Qutub Minar

Humayun's Tomb in Delhi

Humayun’s Tomb

Some of the tourists visit Akshardham Temple, Bahai Temple, Jama Masjid also. Most take taxis or package tours of Delhi as these are cheaper compared to other cities in the world. Unlike cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, London, etc. there are not many souvenir shops in Delhi. However, Dilli Haat is popular among tourists and serves as a good shopping stop for souvenirs, handlooms and handicrafts. While Dilli Haat purchases are less costly, some foreign tourists also prefer to make such purchases from Janpath street shops at slightly higher rates.

Crockery items in Janpath

Crockery items in Janpath courtesy:

The tourists staying at homestays in Delhi very well know where from to purchase, how to travel within the city and where to eat at reasonable rates. The tourists staying in hotels have lesser choice of interacting with people, though they are also able to avail such information through sites like India Tourism, Delhi Tourism and other websites of local travel agencies. Delhi gets maximum number of tourists in the months from September to February.

These data are generally taken from DTTDC and are incorporated in the author’s Ph.D. thesis and research article “Economics of B&B Scheme of Delhi” published in July’13 issue of SAJTH.

Why should you visit India amidst security concerns?

In India, Tourism was first conceived as Tirthatan (religious travel) then as Deshatan (travel around the country) and finally as Paryatan with the sole purpose of promoting intermingling among people of neighboring states, to acquaint them with the culture of the host country.

In India, hospitality is based on the principle of Atithi Devo Bhava, i.e. “the guest is god.” Here people live in unity though there is diversity in Caste, Creed and Culture. During various festivals, all the communities including Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others enjoy with great fervor and gaiety. Neighbours share their joy during family functions and also console each other at times of mourning. All Indian religions follow the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and sharing of joys & sorrows with a sense of togetherness.



Atithi devo bhava- Incredible India

Thus, India has something for every tourist who wishes to get a taste of the unique culture of India. There are

  • 22 languages with 1542 dialects
  • 27 world heritage sites
  • 7500 km. of coastline
  • 9000 years old history, civilization and heritage
  • 55,000 km. of lakes, streams and rivers
  • 476 forts and palaces

India is also well known as a rich culinary heritage destination. It boasts of the following:

  • 70 million hectares of forest
  • 147 dance forms
  • 5000 years of experience in Ayurveda and Yoga.

If you enjoy having morning tea then India is a must visit! There are a large number of “Tea states” totaling 1641 in India.


Tea plantation

Tea plantation in India via 3


Furthermore, India is host to almost 60% of the world’s tiger population. There are 60 national parks, 400 wild life sanctuaries.


Gir wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat

Gir wildlife sanctuary in Gujarat


If you still have doubts about visiting India with your friends and family, feel free to reach me at or +91 9810603010.