Divine intervention! Pilgrimage destinations see surge in visitors after pandemic

(File photo) Amarnath: Pilgrims during the Amarnath Yatra, after the resumption of the Panjtarni route pilgrimage, in Amarnath, July 11, 2022

Photo: PTI

Spiritual tourism is back and booming now that the pandemic is over. Several religious shrines and temple towns such as Guruvayur in Kerala, dedicated to Lord Guruvayurappa, are now seeing visitor numbers double. VK Vijayan, chairman of Guruvayur Devaswom, told Economic Times that the shrine sees an increase in visitors after August 15, but this year even relatively leaner months like March, April and July have seen daily increases. This year, the Kerala sanctuary has seen 6,000 to 7,000 visitors a day compared to 4,000 visitors before the pandemic, he added.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar is seeing at least 1 lakh visitors a day this year, the number well above the pre-pandemic period, according to Rajwinder, a tourism officer at the Golden Temple. The number only represents domestic tourists, while international tourists are expected to further increase the number of daily visitors once the influx of international visitors begins in October, he added.

As many as 32,000 to 40,000 devotees a day have flocked to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine this year compared to 10,000 to 15,000 before the pandemic. “During long weekends, pilgrims had to be stopped at the Katra base due to overcrowding at the shrine. They were allowed in once the rush subsided, said Katra tourism manager Rajesh Sharma.

Travel and tourism companies are trying to exploit the potential of this growing but unorganized market. A multitude of ready-to-book pilgrimages and personalized spiritual journeys are offered by these companies ranging from Rs 20,000 for a five-day package trip to Rs 200,000 for a 6-day trip.
Rajeev Kale, President & countryhead-holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) told ET that not only older people, but even millennials are increasingly embarking on such spiritual journeys.
Thomas Cook and its group company, SOTC Travel, saw a growth of 35% in specific spiritual tourism packages compared to pandemic levels and 15% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Some of the major religious travel destinations include Char Dham Yatra, Do Dham, Vaishno Devi Temple, Venkateshwara Temple, Golden Temple, Ajmer Dargah Sharif and Velankanni Church.

Indian Hotels (IHCL), which has a strong presence in major religious sites in the country such as Amritsar, Ajmer, Tirupati, Katra, Varanasi, Nashik, Haridwar, Rishikesh Dwarka, is witnessing an increase in hotel occupancy rate, Tirupati registering 90% increase and 60% hike in places like Ajmer, Amritsar, Rishikesh and Haridwar.

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