Despite the surge in online travel searches, the ultimate success in reaching the 50 million tourist goal for Ayodhya hinges on translating the ambitious infrastructure plans into tangible reality.
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As Ayodhya undergoes a massive transformation with a projected $10 billion redevelopment, including a new airport, upgraded railway station, township, and improved road connectivity, the town could attract over 50 million tourists annually, according to a report by brokerage firm Jeffries.
Why 50 Million Is a Big Number: The town in Uttar Pradesh has been in the news for Monday’s inauguration of the temple dedicated to Lord Ram. It is touted to surpass other religious tourism hotspots like the Golden Temple that receives around 30-35 million visitors annually, and Tirupati temple that sees 25-30 million visits.
In a global context, Vatican City attracts approximately 9 million tourists yearly, while Mecca in Saudi Arabia welcomes around 20 million.
Religious Tourism in India: Religious tourism is a significant segment of India’s tourism industry, as evidenced by increased bookings to spiritual destinations on platforms like Yatra Online and MakeMyTrip. MakeMyTrip observed 97% growth in searches for spiritual destinations between 2021-2023, with Ayodhya experiencing a surge of 585% in 2023 compared to 2021.
On-platform searches for Ayodhya from India increased by 1,806% since the inauguration announcement, with the peak search being recorded on December 30, the day of the airport inauguration, MakeMyTrip noted.
Temple for India’s Tourism Boost: Jeffries believes that despite infrastructural bottlenecks, popular religious centers in India attract annual tourist traffic of 10-30 million. The report suggests that Ayodhya, with improved connectivity and infrastructure, could have a substantial economic impact and serve as a template for India’s tourism boost.
Infrastructure Development so Far: With the first phase of the new Ayodhya airport operational, accommodating 1 million passengers, additional domestic capacity and an international terminal are expected by 2025, capable of handling 6 million passengers. The upgraded Ayodhya railway station now has double the capacity, accommodating 60,000 passengers per day.
The Hotels: While Ayodhya currently has 17 hotels with 590 rooms, 73 new hotels are in the pipeline, of which 40 are already under construction. Major players like Indian Hotels Company, Marriott, Wyndham and ITC are also investing in the region.
Last week Oyo announced the inauguration of 65 hotels and homes in Ayodhya to support the anticipated surge in tourism.
Oyo has also announced the launch of 400 properties to push religious tourism in destinations like Ayodhya, Puri, Shirdi, Varanasi, Amritsar, Tirupati, Haridwar, Katra-Vaishno Devi, and the Char Dham route by the end of this year.
Indian Hotels Company, that owns the Taj hotels, announced the signing of a third hotel in Ayodhya on Monday.
Surge in Online Tavel Searches: Recognizing that Ayodhya’s hotel infrastructure is still in development, Yatra Online reported a 70% increase in booking queries from December to January for Ayodhya.
“Flight bookings to Ayodhya have surged fourfold compared to the previous month. Simultaneously, daily searches for Ayodhya have quadrupled in January compared to December last year,” said Dhruv Shringi, CEO and whole-time director of Yatra Online.
Cleartrip also observed a 32% uptick in air bookings to Ayodhya. Prahlad Krishnamurthi, chief business officer of Cleartrip, had earlier shared, “We have seen a 300% surge in flight searches, along with a 200% spike in hotel searches. Hotel prices have increased by 60%, and flight fares have risen by 10% compared to the first week of January 2024.”
On Tuesday, Cleartrip and Flipkart Travel noted an overall 1500% increase in searches for Ayodhya across the platform.
Interglobe Enterprises Gets Udaan’s Aditya Pande as Group CEO
Interglobe Enterprises, the parent company of Indian low-cost carrier Indigo, has named Aditya Pande as its group CEO starting March 1.
In this role, Pande will be responsible for shaping Interglobe’s strategic agenda, overseeing and strengthening the leadership of the company’s line businesses and corporate staff functions, excluding Indigo, Interglobe said in a statement.
Pande will report to Rahul Bhatia, the group managing director of Interglobe Enterprises.
Pande joins Interglobe from Udaan, India’s largest enterprise e-commerce company, where he was chief financial officer for the past three years. Udaan announced Pande’s exit on Monday.
In a career spanning 25 years, Pande had been the chief financial officer at Indigo and has had roles at General Electric and US accounting firm Arthur Andersen.
MakeMyTrip’s Highest-Ever Quarter
MakeMyTrip reported its highest-ever quarterly gross bookings, revenue, and profit in its third quarter for fiscal year 2024. Gross bookings reached $2.1 billion, growth of 22%, while adjusted operating profit grew by 70% to $33.4 million. Read Skift’s coverage of how the online travel agency achieved this feat: MakeMyTrip Reports Record-Breaking Quarter: Here’s How They Made It
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Photo credit: Glimpses of the inauguration ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on January 22. Press Information Bureau