November , 2022
Religious tourism is reviving in the Post-pandemic time
16:57 pm

Pritha Misra

Like all other tourism sectors, religious tourism was significantly impacted by the Covid-19 related travel restrictions and closures. The pandemic's effects caused a major drop in tourist numbers in temple towns all over India. However, due to the easing of limitations, religious tourism has recovered swiftly and is less susceptible to economic downturns. According to a recent Thomas Cook India-SOTC survey, 55% of participants went on a religious or spiritual tour or excursion as soon as they could – after the pandemic. Since the travel restrictions have been relaxed, people from all over the country have flocked to well-known religious and spiritual places in search of opportunities to show their thanks and find consolation in spirituality. The recent media reports show that after the epidemic, the number of individuals visiting well-known religious places more than doubled. Examples can be drawn from the number of pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine daily that has increased from 10,000 to 15,000 to 32,000 to 40,000 since the pandemic. At least one lakh people visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar every day, which is a significant increase from the days before the pandemic. Similar trends have been observed in Kerala's Guruvayur Temple, where daily attendance has increased from 4,000 before the pandemic to between 6,000 and 7,000.

Post-pandemic situation

Travel aggregators have carried out studies considering the post pandemic situation that revealed a 35–40% rise in passenger interest in visiting places of religious importance in 2022 compared to the last year.

On the basis of inquiries made through its applications and website, the online travel agency ixigo compared its monthly trends which revealed that searches for holy destinations like Katra (83%), Tirupati (73%), Haridwar (36%), Rishikesh (38%), Rameswaram (34%), Agra (29%), Prayagraj (22%) and Varanasi had increased as of March 2022. The IRCTC's introduction of religious circuit trains, like the Ramayana Yatra Train Tours, Buddhist Circuit Trains, the Jyotirlinga Darshan Yatra, and the Vande Bharat Express from Delhi to Katra, among others, has further accelerated the trend. Moreover, several government-sponsored pilgrimage programmes that were put on hold in January because of the Covid wave have already resumed and are experiencing high demand.

Confirm TKT, an online portal for booking confirmed train tickets, carried out a study that stated that their app and website received more requests for trains to places of worship in recent months. This included the number of enquiries for Rameswaram to have increased by 47%, those for Katra by 36%, those for Prayagraj and Varanasi by 8%, Haridwar by 30%, those for Rishikesh by 29% and for Tirupati by 7%.

Government schemes

India's central and state governments have developed a number of programmes to promote religious travel. For the holistic development of identified pilgrimage destinations, the central government, for example, has established the National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD). This is because developing religious sites necessitates a different focus than developing other tourist destinations. The plan established standards for building top-notch infrastructure in a coordinated manner with the assistance of state governments, the business sector and other partners. 

Jammu and Kashmir fuelling religious tourism

Two Hindu sites, Vaishno Devi in Jammu and Amarnath in Kashmir, draw roughly 43% of visitors to the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. The administration is attempting to get tourists to stay longer and see more of J&K during the ongoing festive season, when there is a big increase in pilgrims to Vaishno Devi. The J&K tourism department has also scheduled cultural programmes, multimedia displays, and an all-India competition of devotional songs to attract tourists. For those who are unable to climb all the way up to the Vaishno Devi cave shrine on foot, free horseback rides and battery vehicle services are being offered. Pilgrims' safety is ensured via RFID tags. For those who are physically impaired, priority darshan are set up by the government.

Large-scale plans have also been made for the Amarnath Yatra. From 29,000 tents in 2018 to 70,000 tents this year, there are now more tents along the way to the temple. Additionally, six new base hospitals have been erected, and Covid hospitals with ICUs have been built in Pahalgam, Baltal, and Sonamarg.


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