Spiritual Tourism

Spiritual Tourism in India:

INDIA, where culture echoes, tradition speaks, beauty enthralls, and diversity delights. The astounding diversity of religions, cultures, and languages of India is unique and unparalleled. The country offers a plethora of spiritual destinations which should not be missed by anybody who is looking for an authentic Indian experience. From opulent mosques and temples to stunning churches, serene monasteries, and magnificent gurudwaras, India is truly a home to holiness. The central government has launched various programs and campaigns time and again, like Incredible India (2002), Atithi Devo Bhava (2005), and Incredible India 2.0 (2017) to promote tourism to a global audience. However, it was only in the year 2014-15 that GOI expanded its focus to spiritual tourism exclusively, and the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual and Heritage Augmentation Drive (PRASHAD Scheme) were set in motion under the Ministry of Tourism.

National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual and Heritage Augmentation Drive was launched in 2014 with an initial provision of INR 100 crores for that year. The Scheme focuses on developing and identifying pilgrimage sites across India and promoting sustainable pilgrimage tourism in India. It aims to integrate pilgrimage destinations in a prioritized, planned, and sustainable manner to provide a real religious tourism experience. The growth of domestic tourism hugely depends on pilgrimage tourism. The strategy also follows a comprehensive area development approach and aims to promote local art, culture, and cuisines that can further generate livelihood in the identified destinations. As of February 2022, a total of 37 projects have been sanctioned under the PRASHAD Scheme, of which 17 projects have been completed. The Ministry has also allotted an amount of INR 235 crores for the scheme this year.

This is, however, not a standalone mission. The PRASHAD scheme combines the nexus of other projects undertaken by the Union Government that facilitate tourism in India. Here is a list of some flagship missions.

  1. Swadesh Darshan Scheme: Launched in 2014-15 with an objective of integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits in the country, the Swadesh Darshan scheme follows community-based development and promotion of cultural and heritage value of India. Tourist circuits are defined routes having at least three major tourist destinations which are distinct and apart and must abide by the themes like ecotourism, wildlife, spiritual, Himalayan, Tribal, Heritage, etc. Out of the budget allocation provided for the year 2022-23, INR 1181.30 crore has been earmarked for the Swadesh Darshan Scheme.
  2. Champion Service Sector Scheme: A sizeable budget estimate of INR 101.54 crore has been issued to the Ministry of Tourism under this scheme. So far, the amount has been utilized in the creation of tourist infrastructures, promotion and marketing, and capacity-building programs in and around iconic sites. The scheme also extends financial incentives to Foreign Tour Operators for enhancing tourist arrival to India.
  3. PM Gati Shakti – National Master Plan for Multiple Nodal Connectivity will facilitate integrated and seamless movement of people, goods, and services across the nation. Economic Zones like textile clusters, pharmaceutical clusters, defense corridors, electronic parks, industrial corridors, fishing clusters, Agri zones will be covered to improve connectivity & make Indian businesses more competitive. The Plan will pull forward not just the economy but will also play a role in boosting tourism in India with better connectivity and ease to travel efficiently.
  4. Continuous and comprehensive efforts made by the Ministry of External Affairs, international travel to India has become faster and safer for tourists. Easy visa policies have made travel more transparent and reliable. The visa-on-arrival scheme has played a significant role in encouraging inbound tourism.

VEDANTA MISSION OF INDIA: For Promotion of Spiritual Tourism in India

India is home to a rich culture and legacy. It celebrates diversity and embraces plurality. Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has time and again emphasised on building “Brand India” with a special focus on Spiritual Tourism. Spiritual Tourism is a new dimension to the tourism industry in India, called -spiritual tourism‘. Consequently, there has been an increase in the awareness and research interest in the thematic field of spiritual tourism. Tourism is an age old activity associated with civilized nations. Spiritual tourism is becoming a major growth area of the Indian travel market with more Indians opting to go on pilgrimage to popular religious cities, such as Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Puri in Odisha, a new report has revealed.

According to travel marketplace ixigo, there has been month-on-month, double-digit growth in hotel bookings on its site for a number of cities with religious connections.
These include Puri (60% growth), which is famed for its Jagannatha Temple, Varanasi (48%), Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh (34%) and Shirdi in Maharashtra (19%), Travel Trends Today reported.
“Spiritual tourism is on the rise. Cities like Puri and Varanasi not only offer travellers a traditional experience, but also enable them to rejuvenate at yoga retreats and Ayurveda spas.
Spiritual tourism is now being considered as one of the offbeat travel trends in India.“It is fascinating to see that young adults are showing quite a high inclination towards exploring indigenous cultural experiences in our country.”
Spiritual tourism is one of the biggest untapped markets for domestic travel: nearly 60% of domestic tourism in India is religion-based.
“To support this upcoming trend, the government has allocated special budgets for creating infrastructure around religious places,”