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Thomas Cook & SOTC: Pilgrimage Tours


The prevailing YOLO (You
Only Live Once) sentiment, influenced by the pandemic, has significantly impacted the preferences of Indian travelers. Modern-day travelers aspire to immerse themselves in destinations and experience them authentically, embracing various facets such as adventure, wellness, food, culture, and history. Thomas Cook (India) Limited, the leading omnichannel travel services company, and its Group Company, SOTC Travel, have observed a noteworthy surge of 100% YoY in the demand for spiritual locales, with a particular emphasis on cultural experiences and adventure.

The recent inauguration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, coupled with enhanced connectivity and infrastructure, has intensified online searches by 10x. Capitalising on this burgeoning yet unorganized segment, the companies have expanded their spiritual tours portfolio, offering a diverse range of ready-to-book and personalised tours to spiritual destinations across India and the subcontinent.

While spiritual travel traditionally appealed to seniors (Gen S), Thomas Cook & SOTC are now witnessing increased demand from diverse segments, including multigenerational families, honeymooners/couples, and the millennial and Gen Z cohorts.

Consumer data from the companies reveal that the demand extends beyond traditional pilgrimages to include unique local experiences. To cater to this evolving trend, Thomas Cook and SOTC have curated an enticing product range called Pilgrimage Plus. This includes spiritual breaks combined with local experiences such as mountain biking and paragliding in Vaishno Devi, diving with PADI professionals in Rameswaram, river rafting and kayaking in Rishikesh, camping in Uttarakhand, jungle trekking in Gujarat, sunset boat rides in Varanasi, the Chhau dance, Olive Ridley turtle nesting in Odisha, and learning Kalayaripayattu martial art in Kerala.

Additionally, the spiritual tours feature customised wellness options like meditation, yoga, and wellness programs such as the Panchakarma ayurvedic program at Kumarakom and Yoga Centre/Ashram in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand.

Key themes within Thomas Cook and SOTC’s Spiritual Tourism portfolio include:

Spiritual Journeys – tours to India’s popular religious sites, including Char Dham, Do Dham, Kashi-Vishwanath corridor, Vaishno Devi, Varanasi, Rath Yatra, Amarnath Yatra, Kailash Mansarovar, Bodhgaya, Dwarkadish, the Tamil Nadu temple circuit, Muktinath in Nepal, and more.

Ramayana Trails – private guided tours featuring locales associated with the life and times of Lord Ram in India and Sri Lanka.
Jyotirlinga Darshan Trails – dedicated tours to the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines across India.
Anant Kashi Ayodhya Yatra.
Navagraha Temple Tour – Tamil Nadu.

The inclusions in these tours comprise guided/VIP darshans at temples, a guide cum storyteller explaining the historical-spiritual perspectives, Satvik meals, escorted group tours with expert regional language-speaking tour managers, and accommodations ranging from hotels to tents.

To provide customers with ease and convenience, special offers such as Travel Now Pay Later and zero-interest EMIs have been introduced.

Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head – Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Limited, commented on the growing interest in spiritual journeys, emphasising the expanded portfolio’s ability to cater to diverse segments and offer unique local experiences. He highlighted the government’s focus on connectivity and infrastructure, contributing to the surge in demand.

Daniel D’souza, President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel Limited, shared insights into the significant growth of spiritual tourism in India, with the Pilgrimage Plus tours providing a spiritual core combined with leisure, outdoor adventures, and authentic local experiences. The tours cater to a range of price points, ensuring accessibility for every consumer segment.

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