Young people redefine the new culture of pilgrimage

In the space of two years, various sectors have undergone drastic changes. With every change in consumer behavior, businesses had to shape and evolve to meet consumer expectations. Travel and Tourism is one such segment that has seen major shifts bringing new trends and consumption patterns that are transforming the entire industry at its core.

In the post-pandemic era, revenge travel has become a must for all travel enthusiasts. These trips came in the form of short vacations, weekend getaways, staycations, and short travel experiences that simply meant getting away from home. Staying cooped up at home not only increased our desire to see new places, but also increased our faith and spirituality. Spirituality and religiosity have become an answer to many difficult questions, including the psychological health of those involved.

With this continuing trend, pilgrimage tourism is booming in India. Kanwar Yatra 2022, recorded arrival of 38 million pilgrims in Utarakhand. The Golden Temple receives more than one lakh visitors a day than pre-pandemic figures. Worshipers and tourists flock to shrines across the country. Long weekends and public holidays see more than twice as many visitors compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Previously, the pilgrimage was an ambitious journey for people visiting elderly relatives or a middle-aged couple going on a pilgrimage with their children and dependents. Now, young people are inclined towards spiritual and religious tourism by choosing unique partners with whom to undertake this journey. Recently, social media was buzzing with news of a man from Noida for taking his pet dog inside the Kedarnath shrine. The video shows the devotee grabbing the dog’s front legs and making it touch the statue of "Nandi" in the outer enclosure of the Kedarnath temple. A priest is also seen putting a tilak (vermilion placed on the forehead) on Nawab’s head. Although the man was booked for this act, it just goes to show how the pandemic has changed Indian mindsets and how they plan and prefer to travel.

One of these segments is the defense fraternity. The defense fraternity, which always chooses to spend enough time when off duty, recently set out to journey into the post-pandemic era. In the pre-pandemic era, like any person of faith going to a religious place with old relatives was a common occurrence. Jawans were often seen in religious places with their defense passes.

However, like other consumer segments, lockdowns and social distancing norms have not gone over very well with the defense fraternity, and we are seeing an urgency within this group to welcome pilgrims at the earliest. Now they travel not only with their elderly parents, but also with their spouses, young children and often their extended parents. The period of staying away from social interactions with close relatives and even friends generated a desire to seek meaningful relationships. Finding solitude and spiritual connection is at the top of this fellowship’s priority list.

In a recent jawan ground survey conducted by udChalo, it appeared that 40% of respondents were looking forward to traveling during their vacation. Destinations like Shirdi and Vaishnodevi as the top vacation picks. Needless to say every regiment has a battle cry like, Dogra Regiment says ‘Jawala Mara ki Jai’, Sikh Light Infantry uses, Jo bole so nihal, Sat Sri Akal, Garhwal Rifles use Badri Vishal Lal ki Jai and so away which is a testament to their firm spiritual convictions.

Long gone are the days when spiritual tourism was only for the select few. With the need for spiritual connection taking priority, young people are setting new trends for the industry. With each passing day, religious travel is gaining momentum and the demand is increasing. While factors such as hotel availability, good connectivity to reach the destination and sufficiently pent up travel demand have supported the desire for spiritual journeys. It is up to travel aggregators like us to provide the right personalized solutions to this consumer base to meet the growing demand for new generation travel needs.



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The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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