Amritsar, Punjab, India – 10 July 2011: A crowd of Sikh pilgrims visiting The Harmandir Sahib or The Golden Temple, which is seen in the background.
REPORT FROM INDIA—“Jai Ho,” “Insha’Allah,” “Waheguru”—while these and other phrases of blessing are commonly heard along India’s religious circuit, global hotel chains are flocking to the region with another word in mind: opportunity.
The underserved religious tourism market segment drew 450 million tourists during 2010, or approximately 60% of the country’s 740 million domestic travelers, according to estimates from India’s Department of Tourism. By contrast, foreign tourist arrivals numbered only 5 million for the year in 2010, though both segments continue to grow.
Religious tourism has long been a fundamental characteristic of India’s domestic travel industry. “Pilgrim tourism forms an important segment of domestic tourism,” said Kashmira Commissariat, COO of tour operator Kuoni India’s outbound division. “India, as a confluence of different religions, has always attracted pilgrims from all over the world,” as well.
Religions that have their origins in the country include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Islam has been practiced in India since the seventh century, while Christianity came to India in 52 A.D. India also serves as home to a sizeable population of Zoroastrians (Parsi), Bahá’ís , Ismaili (followers of Aga Khan) and Jews.
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