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

Israel:

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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Season of 330 million Gods is here! Incredible India!

The concept of Tourism started with Tirthatan, Deshathan and presently Paryatan. In India, religious tourism has its own significance, as it is generally a high-volume, low-end tourism.

About Navratri:

Navratri in Sanskrit means 9 nights. Shakti or feminine power is celebrated or worshiped during the sacred time of Navratri. Forms of Shakti worshipped during Navratri are: Durga, Bhadrakali, Amba, Annapoorna Devi, Sarvamangala, Bhairavi, Chandika, Lalita, Bhavani and Mookambika.

Navaratri

Navaratri

In Gujarat, Navratri is celebrated with great fervor with men and women dressed up in traditional Gujarati attire play garba every night during the navratri.

Navratri- Gujarat

Navratri- Gujarat

In West Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated during the same time and images of Durga slaying the demon buffalo Mahishasura are built and displayed in temples.

Durga Puja Festival

Durga Puja Festival

About Dussehra:

Dussehra is the tenth day of Navratri and celebrated as the day Lord Rama defeated the demon king Ravan in Lanka.

Burning Ravana effigy

Burning Ravana effigy

In Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, Dussehra has its origins dating back to 17th century. One won’t see effigies burning. Thus, celebrations are a bit different but nothing less than spectacular. The 10 day event preceding Dussehra begins with the Rathyatra of Lord Rama to the Dhalpur maidaan. Then, the various Gods with processions and bands arrive and the Gaddi shepherds come down from their homes in the hills to sing, dance and praise the gods.

26th Sept Kullu dusshera3

Bed and Breakfast during Dussehra

Foreign tourist particularly from Europe and USA, visit India during this time to witness the celebrations and become part of such celebrations. This is where the importance of Bed and Breakfast comes in as the they like to visit Ramlila, Durga puja pandals, burning of effigies of Ravana, Meghnad and Kumbkaran and have real feeling of existence of 330 million Gods of Incredible India!

Buddha Religious circuit

Keeping in view the tremendous potential of Religious Tourist arrival, Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India, has launched Buddha circuit that includes sites of significance related to the life of the Buddha and is sacred to 500 million Buddhists and also attracts non-Buddhist tourists interested in historical heritage sites such as Bodhgaya in Bihar, Sarnath and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, and Lumbini in Nepal.

buddhist circuit

buddhist circuit

Swachata Abhiyan

Small things make big impact! Prime Minister, Narendra Modi launched Cleanliness drive on 2nd October. As Prime Minister, he was advised to expand his vision but he understood the importance of cleanliness and hygiene to attract more tourists besides raising the standard of living.

Swachhata Abhiyan

Swachhata Abhiyan

In India, Dussehra, Diwali and Holi are celebrated with fervor and gaiety. This festive season of Dussehra and Diwali is no less important than Christmas celebration in December. Delhi bustles with activity and one can find frequent traffic jams all over the city but it does not lessen the enthusiasm of the people. In India, the tourism season starts from mid-September and goes on till March in most of the regions.

 

Month Foreign Tourist Arrival, 2013 Change in FTA from previous month %age change in FTA from previous month
September 453561
October 598095 144534 32%
November 733923 135828 22%
December 821581 87658 12%

 

As the data shows, the months of Sept-December account for almost 60% of Foreign Tourist Arrival in India.

As a closing remark, I hope that during this festive season and pro-active governance, there will be an increase in Foreign Tourist and Foreign Exchange Earnings.

Credits:

www.tourism.gov.in | www.wbginvestmentclimate.org |  www.india.com

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: cpdiary.com

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_2

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 blog.shantitravel.com

 

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 ggsaxena@gmail.com or +91 9810603010.