New Delhi: The much-anticipated unveiling of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is set to transform the ancient town into a vibrant religious tourism destination, with projections of drawing over 50 million visitors each year, surpassing the footfall at revered sites like the Golden Temple and Tirupati Temple.
According to a comprehensive report by global brokerage firm Jefferies, the Ram temple holds the potential to create a substantial economic impact. Spread across nearly 70 acres, the pilgrimage site is poised to accommodate up to a million devotees simultaneously, with the anticipated daily pilgrimage surge reaching 1-1.5 lakh.
The town’s remarkable ₹85,000-crore makeover, encompassing a new airport, enhanced railway station, township development, and improved road connectivity, is expected to trigger a ripple effect, leading to the establishment of new hotels and diverse economic activities, as outlined in the report.
Despite existing infrastructural challenges, religious tourism remains a cornerstone in India, with several religious centers attracting 10-30 million visitors annually. Notably, the Golden Temple in Amritsar sees an estimated 30-35 million footfalls per year, while the Tirupati Temple witnesses 25-30 million visits. On a global scale, Vatican City welcomes around 9 million tourists annually, and Mecca in Saudi Arabia attracts approximately 20 million.
Boost to GDP
Jefferies underlines that Ayodhya’s emergence as a new religious tourism hub, backed by enhanced connectivity and infrastructure, is poised to have a significant economic impact. Tourism, a vital contributor to India’s GDP, generated $194 billion in FY19 (pre-Covid) and is projected to grow at an 8% CAGR to reach $443 billion by FY33. However, India’s tourism currently accounts for about 6.8% of its total GDP, a figure considerably lower than that of most large emerging and developed economies.
The transformation of Ayodhya into a global religious and spiritual tourist destination is anticipated to serve as a model for revitalizing tourism throughout India.
New Airport, Revamped Railway Station
The ₹85,000-crore facelift is set to metamorphose the tranquil city of Ayodhya into a bustling tourist hotspot. Sectors such as hotels, airlines, hospitality, and travel ancillaries are expected to thrive, benefiting from the upswing in tourism and the ensuing economic and religious migration to Ayodhya.
Phase 1 of the new Ayodhya airport has already commenced operations, equipped to handle 1 million passengers. By 2025, additional domestic capacity and an international terminal are anticipated to be operational, capable of accommodating 6 million flyers.
The railway station’s capacity has been doubled to cater to 60,000 passengers daily, with plans underway for a 1,200-acre greenfield township and enhanced road connectivity.
Presently, Ayodhya boasts 17 hotels with 590 rooms. However, with 73 new hotels in the pipeline, including 40 under construction, major players such as Indian Hotels, Marriott, and Wyndham have signed deals for hotels, and ITC is exploring opportunities in Ayodhya. Oyo also plans to add 1,000 hotel rooms to the town.
A Unique Destination: Report
Jefferies underscores that India’s diverse geographical landscapes, cultural heritage sites, and rich artistic and culinary heritage position it as an attractive global tourist destination. Forbes ranked India as the 7th most beautiful country in 2022, boasting 42 UNESCO World Heritage sites and the unique distinction of having both hot and cold deserts. Additionally, India ranks 10th in the Medical Tourism Index.
The inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is poised to unlock India’s tourism potential, capitalizing on its unique advantages. The country’s natural beauty, cultural richness, and historical significance make it an enticing destination for travelers worldwide.