Thomas Cook India, SOTC Witness Strong Demand for Spiritual Tourism
Moneylife Digital Team 01 June 2022
The pandemic, with its unprecedented hardships/challenges, has caused Indians to actively seek spiritual solace. Thomas Cook (India) Limited and SOTC Travel have witnessed a strong 35% growth in spiritual tourism. The companies conducted a research to reveal insights of over 2,000 customers who had embarked on spiritual journeys.  In a focused endeavour to tap into this high potential yet unorganised segment, the companies have expanded their portfolio to include a range of ready-to-book pilgrimages and personalised spiritual journeys. Based on current data, the companies have also witnessed increase in spends by 20%-30%.
The research highlights interesting customer insights: 
1) Almost 55% of the customers visited their spiritual destinations as a mark of gratitude for making it through the pandemic while 24% visited to seek blessings  for bouncing back in business or jobs. 
2) Tour managers/on-ground support and medical support where required were the two main value additions extended to customers that encouraged them to book.
3) Almost half of the customers are seniors (45+ age group) while 35% were families.
India’s seniors segment and 45+ age group form the core segment for pilgrimage tours.
Keeping this in mind, the companies’ top pilgrimage tours extend across: the popular Char Dham Yatra and Do Dham Yatra (option to charter a helicopter as well; VIP darshans) Muktinath in Nepal, Amarnath Yatra, Vaishno Devi shrine with Kashmir, Varanasi with Prayagraj, Ayodhya, etc. 
India’s couples and solo travellers (30-45 yrs) are displaying strong preference for the companies’ customised spiritual tours that include meditation, yoga and wellness programmes, like the yoga centre/ashram in Coimbatore, Dharamshala and Rishikesh; Panchakarma programme at Kumarakom, etc. 
India’s millennial/young professionals and families present the highest growth opportunity – and their preference is for spiritual journeys in combination with outdoor-adventure and authentic local culture/culinary experiences. Thrilling experiences like white-water rafting and night trekking in Vaishno Devi, Kathadi (close to Rameswaram - an emerging hub of water sports), Badrinath’s famous valley of flowers trek; bungee jumping in Rishikesh, etc, are inspiring India’s millennials to explore the land of spiritual journeys. 
“Post the pandemic, we are witnessing a definitive surge in spiritual tourism in gratitude and to invoke blessings. With the government’s strong focus on connectivity and infrastructural development, spiritual locales are attracting interest from not only seniors and families but also from millennials and group of friends. Our product portfolio has hence been diversified to offer a range of convenient pilgrimages and customised options that include wellness, and unique local experiences – across culture, cuisine and outdoor adventure,”  touted Rajeev Kale, president & country head – holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Limited.
“Spiritual tourism has been growing rapidly and expected to further propel the revival and growth of tourism in India. We tested waters pre-pandemic and keeping the post-pandemic surge in demand in mind, we have designed our products to streamline the complete end-to-end experience. Spiritual tourism also provides an ideal getaway amidst tranquil nature with a combination of outdoor adventure and authentic local elements,” shared Daniel D’souza president & country head - holidays, SOTC Travel.
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