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Business News/ Specials / Union Budget 2014/  Special tourist trains to famous pilgrimage sites proposed
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Special tourist trains to famous pilgrimage sites proposed

The trains will cover places of pilgrimage for Hindus, Jains, Christians, Muslim-cum-Sufis, Sikhs, Buddhists and famous temples

Two more tourist trains will be launched, one covering pilgrim and tourist sites in Karnataka and Maharashtra, and the other starting from Rameshwaram and covering places such as Bangalore, Chennai, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Haridwar. Photo: PTIPremium
Two more tourist trains will be launched, one covering pilgrim and tourist sites in Karnataka and Maharashtra, and the other starting from Rameshwaram and covering places such as Bangalore, Chennai, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Haridwar. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: In a move set to boost domestic religious tourism, the railway budget presented on Tuesday proposed launching special tourist trains to famous pilgrimage sites across India.

The trains will cover places of pilgrimage for Hindus (Devi and Jyotirling circuits), Jains, Christians, Muslim-cum-Sufis, Sikhs, Buddhists and famous temples.

Union railway minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda said the government also plans to run a special train tracking the life and work of Swami Vivekananda to propagate his teachings.

Two more tourist trains will be launched, one covering pilgrim and tourist sites in Karnataka and Maharashtra, and the other starting from Rameshwaram and covering places such as Bangalore, Chennai, Ayodhya, Varanasi and Haridwar.

“Pilgrimage travel is possibly Indian travel industry’s best-kept secret in terms of a category showcasing steady and growing returns," said Rajesh Magow, co-founder and chief executive officer, India, Makemytrip.com. “Earlier people who wanted to travel to religious destinations had to either find a group to go on their own or opt to book through travel agents."

However, bookings for religious travel are fast moving online, Magow said, adding that travel to religious destinations is now no longer restricted to an older age group as families treat this as a holiday that helps various age groups bond.

Magow said the rail budget is a positive development for the domestic travel sector, given the new trains and the proposal to launch high-speed trains connecting major cities.

“With the railway budget proposing to introduce more specially packaged trains for pilgrim circuits, the journey will definitely become more convenient and comfortable and we expect more people to use the train services to reach pilgrimage sites," he said.

“Religious tourism accounts for around 50% of all ‘leisure’ tourism undertaken in this country. While there are several large religious tourism festivals that happen without any mishap thanks to the agility of the local administration, we also keep hearing about mishaps at religious centres due to infrastructural issues," said Ambi Parameswaran, member of the management board at FCB Ulka Advertising Ltd, and author of the book For God’s Sake—An Adman on the Business of Religion.

“It is good that the government is recognizing the importance of religious tourism and is trying to play a more meaningful role in making the travel and stay more comfortable. The idea of religious-themed trains...will find ready takers."

Tourism industry veterans also lauded the government opening up to public private partnership projects (PPP) and foreign direct investment (FDI) in railways, as it is expected to play a major role in boosting infrastructure for the tourism sector.

“The railway sector is looking at a major infrastructural boost with the government being open to FDI and PPP. We welcome the move and are certain that this will boost the growth of the tourism industry," said Sharat Dhall, president, Yatra.com, an online travel portal. “Pilgrimage tourism for domestic travellers is a huge market which should get a big fillip with these initiatives as it will definitely help travellers plan their journeys better. Similarly, the budgeted outlay for increasing infrastructure in the North-East will help popularise this market for domestic tourism."

Apart from religious tourism, the government plans to take up eco-tourism and education tourism in the north-eastern states.

In a statement issued by the tourism ministry, Shripad Yesso Naik, the minister of tourism and culture, welcomed the initiatives and assured the full cooperation of his ministry for speedy implementation of the projects.

According to recent government data, there were 1,036 million domestic tourist visits in 2012 and domestic tourism consumption expenditure stood at 4,47,261 crore, or 80.3% of the total consumption expenditure on tourism that year.

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Published: 09 Jul 2014, 12:19 AM IST
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