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Salvific Itineraries And Spiritual Experiences: Sachin Bansal

India is one of the most ancient civilizations having witnessed several religions like Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Vaishnavism, Judaism.

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Religion has an integral and critical role in mobilizing societies. For personal transformation, various means and mediums are available to connect with a higher spirit, and traveling to a destination should amplify the soul. Tourism is all about visiting places and adding the word spiritual, it enhances insights on traveling. The sites that are religious, and not limited to one religion, attract the traveller for one goal, their own truth towards a faith.  

India is one of the most ancient civilizations having witnessed several religions like Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Vaishnavism, Judaism. Uncountable gods, goddesses, and deities visibly transform changes in the lives of followers, connecting with the ultimate. 

The intent of curating salvific itineraries is to humbly connect with the pilgrim's feelings and emotions, seeking soul introspection, and suggesting a potential forward path. It is only through travel-related discoveries they experience the delight of lightness where tourism protrudes as an integral part of one’s ritual.   

A product in tourism with a soul-searching experience requires ‘soul branding’ that provides people support, especially post-pandemic, wherein the visitor is required to develop trust towards traveling, keeping all health-related protocols intact. With a diverse canvas of India, the spiritual activities should adapt to manage younger crowds and their new expectations, training locals for ensuring safe and hygienic delivery of on-ground experiences. 'India with Locals,' is one such enabler of theme-based tourism in which youth are engaged, made aware of their surroundings, heritage, history, culture, and traditions with the 21st-century necessities to excel in delivery skills to operate tourism activities while being inclusive, optimistic and adventurous.  

Tourism businesses that curate salvific itineraries for pilgrims have to explore macro-environments with micro-planning of travel where experience becomes everything. The salvific routes require a certain kind of mindset, and travel businesses must add talent, building dynamic capabilities for commerce and community impact. In recent times, spiritual experiences can be seen as tourism offerings because they touch upon heritage, history, culture, and traditions. An example of such a holistic experience is the ‘Ramayana Trail’ which includes multi-destinations and a huge corpus of stories.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned, "India wants to focus on connectivity to Buddhist sites," He praised the efforts of youths in start-up sectors, mentioning hope, innovation, and compassion as need of the hour while imbibing teachings from Lord Buddha.   

In recent times, regenerative practices aim to improve the entire ecosystem and benefit the community and maintain religious significance. In the post-pandemic world, it is even more important to create a tourism ecosystem where traveller and the host community can reap the benefit equally and safely. Inspiring multi-sectoral opportunities, the tourism sector is introducing newer ways to connect with the planet and people. Through experiential products such as 'Buddha Walks’, the outcome is to bring spiritual enhancement while exploring India.  One has to be mindful of creating pilgrimage as a tourism product and should initiate spiritual experiences as an offering with an aim for a peaceful mind and happy travellers.  

The wave of consumerism with enhanced consumption opportunities has made the spiritual itineraries more like a business than its piousness. The journey undertaken by a traveller is a mix, full of hope, uneasiness, and difficulties. Destination marketing of the spiritual places will undergo a sea change in the long-term owing to sanitization, cleanliness, social distancing, and disinfectant rooms for the pilgrims. Travel businesses must correlate the specific itineraries with value creation and adopt digital technologies for virtual experiences. The new world scenarios will demand tailored thinking with timed pricing for competitive advantage.  

It has become difficult to make distinctions or promote anything religious because of sentiments and politics, which cements the continuity of the society, region, nation, world, and planet. The new offerings have to involve new partnerships. In the future, the strategy is to manage tourism themes for complex pilgrimage destinations and taking feedback to address safety-related solutions.  

The present times of pandemic are challenging and different and the need of the hour is to manage 'experiential delivery in tourism (EDiT)'. There is an urgent need to develop COVID-19 free integrated infrastructure for the development of religious tourism, which does not hinder the physical motion of the seekers.  The travellers’ visitation generates waste, which needs to be minimized. Natural resources are scarce, and for rituals, water is utilized to be appropriated with destination requirements.  Through the ‘Water Heritage’ concept, a chain of awareness series should be planned to initiate a dialogue to reinforce the value of the public spaces, natural resources shared by citizens and visitors, attributing contrasting values to pilgrimage.   

Planet Earth has been devastated by global warming, pandemic, forest fires, etc. Now it is a period to 'EDiT' destinations with an influx of pilgrims more from design thinking while embracing interpretations like salvation, self-fulfillment to keep most happy. To remove the apprehension of a pilgrim emotion quotient and to make spiritual tourism sustainable a quote by H. Richard Niebuhr is to be understood "Pilgrims are persons in motion passing through territories not their own, seeking something we might call completion, or perhaps the word clarity will do as well, a goal to which only the spirit's compass points the way."    

Spiritual tourism can enhance both the purchasers' and sellers' economic understanding only if the pilgrim motivations can be understood. Travel businesses must realize that a pilgrim is seeking alternatives and experimenting with his mind, body, and soul. The opportunity to create an ‘AI Concierge’ will integrate local spiritual heritage and offer customised services to bring tourism growth around ‘pilgrim journeys’ (tourism's oldest form to connect pilgrims with destination-based spirituality). 

Globalization and digitization are perspectives that we are encountering in the new age. As an outcome, the Asian economies are also opening fiercely in different dimensions of services within tourism. Sub-sectors like heritage tourism, medical tourism including spiritual tourism are fast catching up with unlimited and untapped opportunities. The challenge in spiritual tourism specifically has been to internationalise multi-faith-based experiences with a focus on promoting both local, regional, and global perspectives of spiritual destinations. As a medium of peace, the South Asian countries can effectively internationalise spiritual tourism keeping the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals promoting regional peace and prosperity.  It is time to accelerate the salvific itineraries and spiritual experiences in the quest for embedding and experiencing cross cultures with an aim towards global peace. 



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