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CII Roundtable on Pilgrimage Tourism,"Opportunity abounds in India's Religious Circuits"
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a)     The tourism ministry will soon come out with a web site listing important tourist destinations in the country and the facilities that are available in such centres.

 

b)      Disclosing this at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Roundtable on Pilgrimage Tourism, Mr Parvez Dewan, Secretary, Tourism, Government of India said that many states have responded to this initiative of the Ministry. So far details of 243 destinations have been compiled and the effort is to make it cover every tourist spot in the country. “This will serve as a comprehensive catalogue for the foreign and domestic tourists including those travel in the pilgrimage route,” he added.

Mentioning that faith tourism is recession proof, the Secretary said that religious tourism held the key to India’s effort to augment the flow of foreign tourists in the country and to facilitate domestic travelling. “We have to have a proactive approach for developing these centres and should be sensitive to the needs  of  people who are visiting these centres. For instance, the hotels set up in Jain religious centres should address the sentimental values and food habits of that people,” he added.    

To a question from the floor as to what were  the  numbers of people visiting various destinations in the country, Mr Dewan said that nowhere in the world data of the tourists are maintained on  destination basis but collected state-wise.

The Secretary mentioned about the plans of the ministry to develop more religious tourist circuits in the country. In this regard, he observed a Jew pilgrimage centre would  be opened up connecting cities like Kochi, where at one point of time a number of Jews lived and later migrated to other countries.

Dwelling on the importance of connecting Sufi tourism in the country, the Secretary opined that there are 22 Sufi centres in the country that can be connected. He also mentioned about the strengthening the connectivity of Chennai with pilgrimage centres in the North, primarily to cater to the needs of the Buddhists pilgrims from Sri Lanka. Similar plans are afoot for promoting pilgrimage tourism from ASEAN countries to Buddhist centres. The high-ended travellers, he said would look for more comforts and better infrastructure.

Replying to a question from the floor about the need for connecting countries in SAARC, the Secretary said that some type of arrangement existed today and remarked that it could be strengthened.  Similarly, the road connectivity with ASEAN countries could help augmenting pilgrimage tourism from these countries.

To another query regarding building of infrastructure facilities around the pilgrim centres, the Secretary said that the nodal ministry for such decisions are the Ministry of Surface Transport and the State governments and such decisions were taken on a holistic basis and not necessarily driven by tourism needs alone. However, he mentioned that his ministry funds last mile connectivity projects, with the shoe string funds at it command.

Underscoring the need for better air, rail and road linkages for promoting pilgrim tourists in particular and general tourism in general, Mr Dewan wanted greater involvement of the stakeholders not only in formulating plans but also for its implementation.

 

c)      Mr Rakesh Tandon, Managing Director, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd exhorted the tourism sector to make use of 8000 railway stations across the country for promoting religious tourism since every station has in its vicinity a temple, mosque, church or a gurudwara. He also explained the plans of the Railways to connect various centres in the near future, such as expanding the network of Bharat Darshan trains. There is demand for increasing the number of such trains from various centres.

 

d)     Mr Muzaffar Ali, film maker, artist and social worker underscored the need for making people aware of the inner meaning and philosophy of Suffism, since it could be an effective platform for promoting religious tourism. Trade and travel can participate in permeating the awareness across the country.

 

e)      Mr Arjun Sharma, Co-Chairman, CII National Committee on Tourism and MD Le Passage to India, stressed the need for strengthening infrastructure, enhancing connectivity and mapping of tourist destinations that can be developed.  

 
Description

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organized a Roundtable on Pilgrimage Tourism, “Opportunity abounds in India’s Religious Circuits” on 22 December 2012 in New Delhi.

 

The Tourism Ministry would soon come out with a website listing important tourist destinations in the country and the facilities that are available in such centres.

Disclosing this at the Inaugural, Mr. Parvez Dewan, Secretary, Tourism, Government of India said that many states have responded to this initiative of the Ministry. So far details of 243 destinations have been compiled and the effort is to make it cover every tourist spot in the country. “This will serve as a comprehensive catalogue for the foreign and domestic tourists including those travel in the pilgrimage route,” he added.

 

Mentioning that faith tourism is recession proof, the Secretary said that religious tourism held the key to India’s effort to augment the flow of foreign tourists in the country and to facilitate domestic travelling. “We have to have a proactive approach for developing these centres and should be sensitive to the needs of  people who are visiting these centres. For instance, the hotels set up in Jain religious centres should address the sentimental values and food habits of that people,” he added.    

 

To a question from the floor as to what were  the  numbers of people visiting various destinations in the country, Mr Dewan said that nowhere in the world data of the tourists are maintained on destination basis but collected state-wise.

 

The Secretary mentioned about the plans of the ministry to develop more religious tourist circuits in the country. In this regard, he observed a Jew pilgrimage centre would be opened up connecting cities like Kochi, where at one point of time a number of Jews lived and later migrated to other countries.

 

Dwelling on the importance of connecting Sufi tourism in the country, the Secretary opined that there are 22 Sufi centres in the country that can be connected. He also mentioned about strengthening the connectivity of Chennai with pilgrimage centres in the North, primarily to cater to the needs of the Buddhists pilgrims from Sri Lanka. Similar plans are afoot for promoting pilgrimage tourism from ASEAN countries to Buddhist centres. The high-ended travelers, he said would look for more comforts and better infrastructure.

 

Replying to a question from the floor about the need for connecting countries in SAARC, the Secretary said that some type of arrangement existed today and remarked that it could be strengthened.  Similarly, the road connectivity with ASEAN countries could help augmenting pilgrimage tourism from these countries.

 

To another query regarding building of infrastructure facilities around the pilgrim centres, the Secretary said that the nodal ministry for such decisions are the Ministry of Surface Transport and the State governments and such decisions were taken on a holistic basis and not necessarily driven by tourism needs alone. However, he mentioned that his ministry funds last mile connectivity projects, with the shoe string funds at it command. Underscoring the need for better air, rail and road linkages for promoting pilgrim tourists in particular and general tourism in general, Mr Dewan wanted greater involvement of the stakeholders not only in formulating plans but also for its implementation.

 

Mr Rakesh Tandon, Managing Director, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd exhorted the tourism sector to make use of 8000 railway stations across the country for promoting religious tourism since every station has in its vicinity a temple, mosque, church or a gurudwara. He also explained the plans of the Railways to connect various centres in the near future, such as expanding the network of Bharat Darshan trains. There is demand for increasing the number of such trains from various centres.

 

Mr Muzaffar Ali, film maker, artist and social worker underscored the need for making people aware of the inner meaning and philosophy of Suffism, since it could be an effective platform for promoting religious tourism. Trade and travel can participate in permeating the awareness across the country.

 

Mr Arjun Sharma, Co-Chairman, CII National Committee on Tourism and MD, Le Passage to India, stressed the need for strengthening infrastructure, enhancing connectivity and mapping of tourist destinations that can be developed.  

 

Other Eminent Speakers at the Roundtable included Dr Nalin Shinghal, Director, IRCTC, Mr Sanjay Kumar, General Manager, Pawan Hans, Helicopters, Mr Sreenivas Rao, MD, Rao Travels, Mr Vivek Mathur, General Manager, MP Tourism, Mr. Amiya Pattnaik, Vice Chancellor, Orissa Tourism, Mr Arijit Purkayastha, CEO, Koyeli Tours, Mr Karan Anand, Head, Relationships & Supplier Management, Cox & Kings Ltd, Mr A Vaidyanathan, Chairman, Akshaya India Tours.

 

The presence of IRCTC & Pawan Hans made discussions very fruitful at the roundtable as they could further contribute immensely in development of Religious Tourism. The Roundtable was well attended by Tour Operators, Travel Agents, Religious Tourism experts from all over like Chennai, Assam, MP, Odisha, UP, Punjab, Gujarat, Hoteliers, Ministry of Tourism & representatives from state governments.

The Roundtable had three Technical Sessions. Some of the important points that emerged out of the discussions are as below :-

  • There is a need for creating a credible brand for North Indian Tourism as religious tourism in North India can generate revenue close to US $ 1 billion by carefully tapping the potential.

 

  • Efforts should be taken to link religious tourist centres in the North with each other so that they can be sold under one package. In this regard, it was felt that helicopter services can be popularized to bring down time for travel. The initiatives taken by the Pawan Hans in this regard had major impact in connecting small towns and pilgrimage centres. Pawan Hans mentioned that helicopter services will be introduced shortly to places like Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Singroli.

 

  • One of the sessions was primarily devoted to presentations about Buddhist Circuit in India. The legacies of the states which are connected to Buddhism should be preserved & properly packaged to the outside world.

 

  • Air linking of the Buddhist circuits have to be put on a fast track, since considerable time is lost while transiting from one point to the other. PPP should be strengthened to enhance civic amenities in these centres with the help of local people since basic facilities like toilets, approach roads are badly maintained. There is the need for deployment of language guides since most of the visitors may be from countries like Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka etc. A target of attracting two million foreign tourists yearly to these destinations should be set

 

  • Dedicated websites have to be created for marketing Buddhist circuits in India and Nepal, which should give details like shortest routes from each destination, lodge and boarding facilities, tariff, exclusive food outlets for Buddhists etc.  

 

  • Proper mapping of tourism centres in the south particularly in Karnataka, Kochi and Tamil Nadu should be done scientifically and suitable packages should be drawn up.

 

  • Online presence of the pilgrimage destinations is important. Though a few destinations like Vaishno Devi, Tirupathi Devasthnam have their own web sites, there are many which do not have one.
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Knowledge Resources
You will get access to following Knowledge Resources by subscribing to the Digital Library of this event.
 
Buddham Saranam Gachhami by Mr Amiya Pattnaik, Vice Chancellor, Utkal University of Culture, Odisha Tourism
Buddhist Circuit in India by Mr Nalin Shinghal, Director, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, Ltd (IRCTC)
Madhya Pradesh Tourism by Mr Vivek Mathur, General Manager, Madhya Pradesh Tourism
Opportunity abounds in India’s Religious Circuits by Mr Sanjay Kumar, General Manager, Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd
Presentation by Ravi Luthra, Director, Landmark Tours & Travels Pvt Ltd at the CII Roundtable on Pilgrimage Tourism “Opportunity abounds in India’s Religious Circuits”.
Religious Tourism by Rakesh Tandon, Managing Director, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd
Religious Tourism in East, West & South India by Er Pranav Bansal, Partner, Plenary Holidays
 
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