“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” —Saint Augustine

I joined the Indian Air Force in February 1982 and I have been traveling throughout my life. I volunteered to travel in the Indian Air Force as I enjoyed traveling thoroughly. I was ordered within a short duration to pack my luggage to travel to unknown destinations due to service exigencies. I was eager to travel while serving. In fact, I was born to travel. I traveled to many parts of India in Mi-17 Helicopter because I was posted in a Helicopter Unit. I enjoyed immensely meeting new people and trying a variety of local foods. Although life was challenging in the service I enjoyed traveling in the Indian Air Force.  After leaving the service, I traveled with my wife and children to many parts of India. Every year, we planned and traveled to different destinations despite meager financial resources. It was a great experience traveling the entire India. I traveled to other parts of the world including Sri Lanka, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, and Malaysia. I had the privilege of visiting Char Dham (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath) in May 2019. During the pilgrimage, an idea flashed in my mind to author a book on spiritual tourism titled, Spiritual Tourism: Tourists First, Tour Operators Second, And Destinations Third.

With an increased number of tourists globally, there is an increased emphasis on spiritual tourism than ever before. Spiritual tourism blends spirituality and tourism. It gives enlightenment and entertainment for visitors. It also offers education as visitors learn many new things during the spiritual tourism.

Spiritual tourism is to travel to find purpose and meaning in your life. It elevates your physical, mental, and emotional energies. It develops, maintains, and improves your body, mind, and spirit. In a nutshell, it connects your body, mind, and soul. Hence, spiritual tourism can be defined as traveling on pilgrimage to acquire enlightenment, entertainment, and education to leave your footprints and take your memories back to your home by expressing your gratitude to God.

Spiritual tourism is not connected with any specific religion. It is different from religious tourism. Spiritual tourism is to connect your body, mind, and soul while religious tourism is to seek blessings from God based on your religious faiths and beliefs and attain salvation. Spiritual tourism is a broader perspective than religious tourism. Religious tourism is a subset of spiritual tourism.

There are various types of tourism such as spiritual tourism, adventure tourism, cruise tourism, eco-tourism, event tourism, medical tourism, sex tourism, special interest tourism, volunteer tourism, wedding tourism, and rural tourism to name a few.

Spiritual tourism falls in the services sector. It increases employment opportunities and contributes to a nation’s GDP growth. There are innumerable advantages of spiritual tourism. It brings inner peace and happiness. It provides purpose and meaning to your life. It encourages local cultures and their traditions. It protects their natural gifts, talents, and arts. With the rapid growth in technology, there is more disturbance to locals and natives. But with increased spiritual tourism, there are opportunities to protect the nature and the natural talents of local communities.  

The local communities are fortunate to see various people and observe their cultures, and customs by staying in their native places. They feel empowered because they take pride in their cultures and customs. They become more interested to protect their history, traditions, and environment. They become more engaged and integrated with mainstream society.

Spiritual tourism encourages foreign investment indirectly as tourists bring foreign exchange. However, there are several demerits with spiritual tourism. It increases sexual exploitation and crimes. It destructs nature and disturbs the ecology. Overall, the merits outnumber the demerits. Hence, spiritual tourism must be encouraged to enhance empathy, compassion, peace, and prosperity.

There is a growing number of employees globally going for spiritual vacations. It helps them reflect and acquire peace, solitude, and relaxation. It improves their decision-making and leadership abilities and skills.

You are blessed with one life and you must lead a part of your life spiritually to overcome challenges. To conclude, everyone must proceed on a spiritual tour to understand themselves and empathize with others to build a compassionate global society.

Note: This is an introductory chapter from my upcoming book, “Spiritual Tourism: Tourists First, Tour Operators Second, And Destinations Third.”

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Life is great!

Professor M.S. Rao

Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India

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