India’s diversity of tourist destinations goes well beyond the beaches, hills and cities. As one of the oldest civilizations in the world with an all-embracing confluence of spirituality, heritage and traditions, India has always been a top choice for cultural travel at a global stage. As the pandemic pushed Indians to explore domestic destinations, cultural travel has witnessed its biggest boom in the past two years. Tracking consumer travel sentiment across India, we have published ‘India’s Treasure Trove of Cultural Travel 2022’ report. As per the report, with over 3.5 times growth over the past year, Srinagar clocked the highest growth in bookings among cultural destinations in 2022. Besides Srinagar, Pahalgam and Jammu in J&K also rank among the top 5 cultural destinations in India, citing increasing travel interest in the region.
As per our booking data analyzed between January to April 2022, Srinagar, Pahalgam, Bodhgaya, Shirdi and Jammu are among India’s top 5 cultural destinations in order of ranking. India is known for its spirituality around the world. Within the culture-travel category, our data highlights rising consumer interest in pilgrimage and heritage destinations. Varanasi, seen by many as the spiritual hub, tops the charts as the most popular pilgrimage destination in India in 2022. This is followed by Tirupati, Puri, Amritsar and Shirdi. Besides this, our Mid-Summer Vacation Index also highlights keen consumer interest in visiting Vaishno Devi this summer.
Top Pilgrimage Destinations – Zone Wise
East – Varanasi
West – Shirdi
North – Amritsar
South – Tirupati
As per our report, when it comes to heritage sites, with 25% votes each, Ajanta & Ellora caves in Aurangabad and Taj Mahal in Agra tied for the top spot. Hampi, Khajurao and Mahabalipuram round up the balance of the top 5 heritage sites.
Commenting on the rise in cultural tourism, Shreerang Godbole, SVP – Product & Chief Service Officer – OYO said, “Cultural tourism has always been a huge contributor to India’s tourism economy. With an increase in domestic travel across India, people are looking forward to exploring rich cultural destinations over the past few years. We’re seeing many more young people opting for hidden gems, historical destinations, holy sites and spiritual or wellness destinations. Varanasi, Shirdi, Rajasthan and Kerala have consistently shown up as top booked cities for this purpose, since 2021. As India’s appetite for cultural and spiritual travel strengthens, we continually support locally run hotels and homeowners to create self-employment opportunities while boosting the local economy. Like we did with our local homestays initiative in Kevadia and Pahalgam in J&K. We are also offering consumers flexible cancellation and modification of bookings, Pay at Hotel option to enable higher influx of tourists across such prominent destinations.”
Interestingly, the survey highlights that approx. 7% tend to make a pit stop at a famous local pilgrimage site. This means that pilgrimage destinations have the potential to attract other destination-bound travellers, opening up vast opportunities for small local businesses. We have also observed that during festivals and long weekends, there’s a clear upswing in demand for spiritual destinations. For instance, during the festive long weekend in April on account of Vishu & Baisakhi, we witnessed a surge in bookings for pilgrimage destinations such as Haridwar and Amritsar, among others.
With an aim to uplift the lives of local communities and give local youth a platform to become startup entrepreneurs, we had recently partnered with the Government of Jammu & Kashmir to launch a state-wide initiative – ‘Crown of Incredible India’. Under this collaboration, with the Mission Youth program of the government, we aim to facilitate opening of homestays across 75 villages to promote entrepreneurship and create self-employment opportunities. Similarly, to create additional income sources for farmers and in order to support them, we ventured into agri stays, with our first pilot in Kevadia (Now called Ekta Nagar), Gujarat last year.