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Tuesday, 19 February, 2019, 09 : 41 AM [IST]


Pilgrimage tourism, though talked about animatedly in seminars and sundry forums, was always the country-cousin of the Indian tourism industry. Ostensibly it was subconsciously considered a cow belt, rural minded, even plebeian sector. Thankfully, this year might mark its turning fortunes.

The Kumbh in Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh is demonstrating and realising an unprecedented potential for not just tourism, but myriad offshoots of social business, reconstruction and infrastructure planning. Mark the figures - a CII estimate reports an employment of 2,50,000 hospitality workers, involvement of 1,50,00 aviation sector employees and 45,000 personnel from the tour and travel agencies. Almost 85,000 personnel are being employed in medical tourism and eco-tourism sectors, and jobs for almost 55,000 guides, interpreters and volunteer workers have been generated as well.

For once the UP government has put its act together with sharp business sense, besides its social responsibility. The state government has allocated INR 4,200 crore for the 50-day festival, and CII expects it will generate revenue of INR 1.2 lakh crore for itself.

From being a mere facilitator of localised management, the state has actively used the occasion to build a larger narrative for development. A worldwide promo for the state and India has gathered manifold eyeballs internationally and even tourism representatives of other Indian states have been invited to build on their potential by giving an opportunity to showcase their potential of religious and spiritual tourism. A series of parallel seminar or talk events have also been organised in other cities of the state to focus on youth, women empowerment, environment and social cohesiveness.

By expanding the definition of the Kumbh while strengthening the infrastructure and facilitation at the massive site of the festival, the role of spirituality beyond dogma and ritual has been sought to be emphasised.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also chipped in and invited envoys of 72 different nations to witness the preparations. This was the first edition of the 20-centuries-old event when it was recognised by UNESCO as the ‘world’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity’.

There’s a lesson here for all states to follow.

Anurag Yadav
Industry Expert
(The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.)
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