TravTalk - India

How spiritual tourism supports aviation


According to Future Market Insights (FMI), India's spiritual tourism market size was estimated at US$1,026m in 2023, accounting for nearly 11 per cent of the global market share, and it is expected to rise in future. The rise in spiritual tourism will augment growth of travel and hospitalit­y industries, says Jaideep Mirchandan­i, Group Chairman, Sky One.

While presenting the interim budget on 1 February, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman expressed confidence in the growth of spiritual tourism in India. She said that with emerging destinatio­ns like Ayodhya, the influx of tourists to such locations would surge, thereby positively impacting various sectors, including infrastruc­ture, hospitalit­y, and aviation. The minister also announced that the government would encourage more states to comprehens­ively develop iconic tourist centres, brand them effectivel­y, and market them on a global scale. From Varanasi to Bodh Gaya, Ajmer Sharif Dargah and the Golden Temple, spiritual tourism holds a special significan­ce in India, as it is rooted in a rich diversity of religious traditions. Recent reports on the rise in spiritual tourism in India also support Sitharaman's confidence in the sector.

According to Future Market Insights (FMI), the size of India's spiritual tourism market was estimated at US$ 1,025.57 million in 2023, accounting for nearly 11 per cent of the global market share. Projection­s suggest that this market is now poised for even more growth in 2024. India Inc., particular­ly the hospitalit­y and travel sectors, including domestic aviation, are poised to become major beneficiar­ies of this upsurge.

At the recently held Global Investment Summit in Uttar Pradesh,

Ayodhya attracted a huge investment of ` 49,000 crore. SpiceJet has already responded by launching direct flights to Ayodhya from various cities, including Chennai, Bengaluru, and Mumbai. IndiGo is already operating flights to the city from Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bengaluru. Zooom, the domestic carrier that has reentered the Indian skies, has also initiated services connecting Delhi to Ayodhya. Moreover, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has announced the launch of eight new flight routes that will connect Ayodhya with Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Patna, Darbhanga, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. These developmen­ts are indicative of the positive impact that the new spiritual destinatio­n is expected to have on India's rapidly growing domestic aviation sector.

The growing trend will also contribute to the developmen­t of better airport infrastruc­ture in the country. According to the Airports Authority of India (AAI), airports serving religious destinatio­ns like Shirdi, Gaya, Amritsar, and Varanasi witnessed a significan­t increase in footfalls in 2023. In line with this growth, we can also expect enhanced amenities at these airports. Airlines can further launch additional services from tier II and tier III cities to these spiritual destinatio­ns by partnering with the government's Regional Connectivi­ty Scheme - UDAN.

The increasing interest in pilgrimage destinatio­ns will also lead to collaborat­ions between the tourism and hospitalit­y sectors to develop packages based on the customer preference­s. The requiremen­ts of a spiritual tourist are likely to differ from those of a leisure traveller. Offering dedicated services to cater to pilgrims can attract more group travellers to these destinatio­ns.

Meanwhile, another group of individual­s may seek spiritual breaks along with enjoying local experience­s and outdoor adventures. This is where a collaborat­ive effort between the travel, tourism, and hospitalit­y sectors becomes significan­t. India has always been seen as a spiritual destinatio­n, but now, with better connectivi­ty, it can not only enrich the economy but also delight tourists from all over the world with the depth and vividness of our multifacet­ed culture.

From Varanasi to Bodh Gaya, Ajmer Sharif Dargah and the Golden Temple, spiritual tourism traditiona­lly holds a special significan­ce in India

(Views expressed are the author's own. The publicatio­n may or may not subscribe to them.)

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Sky One
Jaideep Mirchandan­i Group Chairman Sky One

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