Ayodhya: The grand opening of the Ram temple in Ayodhya may help the town attract at least 50 million tourist a year — higher than religious tourism hotspots of Golden Temple and Tirupati Temple — as massive spend on infrastructure such as airports will put the once out-of-the-way town in Uttar Pradesh on the tourism circuit.
Brokerage Jefferies in a report estimates that a USD 10 billion makeover of Ayodhya with a new airport, revamped railway station, township and improved road connectivity will likely drive a multiplier effect with new hotels and other economic activities. It “could attract 50 million+ tourists a year”.
Golden Temple in Amritsar gets an estimated 30-35 million footfalls a year while Tirupati temple sees 25-30 million visits. Globally, Vatican city gets around 9 million tourists every year and Mecca in Saudi Arabia around 20 million.
“Religious tourism is still the biggest segment of tourism in India,” according to Jeferies. “Several popular religious centres attract annual tourist traffic of 10-30 million despite the existing infrastructural bottlenecks. And hence, the creation of a new religious tourist centre (Ayodhya) with improved connectivity and infrastructure can create a meaningfully large economic impact.” Tourism contributed USD 194 billion to FY19 (pre-Covid) GDP and is expected to grow at an 8 per cent CAGR to USD 443 billion by FY33, it said, adding tourism to GDP ratio in India at 6.8 per cent of GDP is below most of the large emerging/developed economies; which are higher by 3-5 percentage points.
Stating that Ayodhya could be a template for India’s tourism boost, it said Rs 85,000 crore (USD 10 billion) makeover is set to transform the ancient city from a sleepy town to a global religious and spiritual tourist hotspot.
“Tourism is projected to surge and increase economic and religious migration to Ayodhya, multiple sectors stand to benefit, including hotels, airlines, hospitality, FMCG, travel ancillaries, cement etc,” the brokerage said.
Phase 1 of a new airport at Ayodhya has become operational and can handle 1 million passengers. Additional domestic capacity and an international terminal is expected by 2025 with a capacity to handle 6 million passengers. Railway station has been upgraded to double the capacity to 60,000 passengers per day. A 1,200-acre greenfield township is being planned and road connectivity is being beefed up as well.
At present Ayodhya has around 17 hotels with 590 rooms. 73 new hotels are in the pipeline, of which 40 are already under construction. While Indian Hotels, Marriott and Wyndham have already signed deals for hotels, ITC is exploring opportunities in Ayodhya. Oyo plans to add 1,000 hotel rooms in Ayodhya.
Jefferies said India offers geographical variety, diversity, culture, heritage sites and a treasure trove of art, music and cuisines to make it a popular global tourist destination. And the temple at Ayodhya will only help unlock tourism potential of India, which has distinct advantages — ranked 7th most beautiful country by Forbes in 2022, home for 42 Unesco World Heritage sites, one of only three countries in the world to have both hot and cold deserts and ranked 10th in the Medical Tourism Index.