Ayodhya is being developed into a centre for spiritual tourism, on the lines of Mecca and Medina for Islam and Rome for Christianity. Without doubt, Ayodhya will become a major spiritual tourism destination. The grand opening of Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22 is a big religious event. The new Ram temple comes up at the cost of $225 million. It also comes with a large economic impact as India gets a new tourist spot which could attract 50 million plus tourists a year. The potential for tourism-related business is enormous and has attracted investors into hotel, travel and other tourism-related activities.
A $10 billion makeover (new airport, revamped railway station, township, improved road connectivity etc) will likely drive a multiplier effect with new hotels and other economic activities. It can also set a template for infra driven growth for tourism. Foreign brokerage firm Jefferies in a recent report said that the $10 billion makeover is now 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. Significant infra upgrade to facilitate Ayodhya tourism with Phase 1 of a new airport at Ayodhya has become operational at the cost of$175 million and can handle one million passengers. Additional domestic capacity and an international terminal is expected by 2025 with a capacity to handle six 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 being beefed up as well.
Religious tourism is big in India. Religious tourism is still the biggest segment of tourism in India. And hence, the creation of a new religious tourist centre at Ayodhya with improved connectivity and infrastructure can create a meaningfully large economic impact. The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is expected to surge every year to the holy town. Currently, the tourism-to-GDP ratio in India, at 6.8 per cent of the GDP, puts the country below most of the large emerging and developed economies, which are higher by 3-5 percentage points.
The Ram temple was inaugurated in Ayodhya 32 years after a Hindu nationalist mob demolished the Mughal era Babri mosque. Hindus claim the Babri Masjid was built on the site of a temple during the first Mughal ruler Babar, on land that was the birthplace of Ram. After a long litigation over the land, on November 9, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that the land must be handed over to a trust to oversee the construction of a Hindu temple, subject to conditions. A separate piece of land in Ayodhya was awarded to Muslim groups. The emergence of the Ram Temple should foster the concept of taking all faiths together to achieve progress, inclusivity and pluralism, not one-sided governance.