Spirituality may be the biggest reference point of Varanasi, but tourism is gradually moving just beyond this. Experiential tourism being the new buzz word which is attracting travellers from diverse backgrounds, changing the demography of tourists, especially domestic tourists, coming to the city. These travellers want to savour all elements like food trails, textile tourism, photography walks, etc. “Movement of domestic tourist traffic has not only increased but a lot of diversity is also seen. Right from personnel of the corporate sector to all-women groups are visiting the city, adding a lot of diversity to the tourism segment. What has added to the city’s popularity among people is that it is now also our PM Narendra Modi’s constituency. People are really keen to explore the city which they constantly see on television,” shares RS Singh, GM of Hindustan International hotel in the city.

Foreign tourists, exploring the campus of Banaras Hindu University, are being guided by a localite (BCCL/ Arvind Kumar)
Shashank Basu, a travel guide, who guided noted businessman and his family some time back, also believes that city’s visibility had has become more pronounced ever since it became the PM’s constituency. “A lot of metro bred, domestic tourists want to experience the city, a trend which was not there earlier. Spirituality is not the only thing on their mind, they want to relish the street food, capture the daily life on their camera and enjoy the spirit of the city.”
All-women groups too are coming to the city more frequently these days. Shalini Narayanan, independent communications consultant from Delhi with a group of three of her classmates visited Varanasi for the Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh held a few months back. “Four of us – all school friends – had caught up with each other after a gap of over three decades. So we wanted to deepen our understanding of who we were now through a trip. Banaras fit the bill perfectly. The Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh was the focal point of our visit, going to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple as a centre for spiritual regeneration was a priority for us. But this was not all, we gorged on the delicious street food of the city including the famed chaat which was another attraction. Not to forget the opportunity to shop and see the weavers at work. We were also pleasantly surprised to find there was no feeling of insecurity at night while returning from the music festival, late at night. The trip really worked for us,” says Shalini.


Foreign tourists capturing the essence of Varanasi on their cameras (BCCL/ Arvind Kumar)
Shilpi Singh, who is into hospitality industry and helps in running Grannies Inn, a home-stay in the city along with her mother, says, “All girls’ getaway to Banaras is gaining popularity in the past few years. Earlier this year, we had curated a three day sojourn to the city. The itinerary had apart from the temple darshan, visit to the traditional sari shop and weavers for sari shopping. The ladies also explored the lanes of the old city area and relished the famous chaat. The members of the group, who belonged to cities like Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad and Delhi, had a great time. We organise such tours on a regular basis as demand for this has grown,” she says.

The 3D screening of a documentary related to Banaras has been a major tourist attraction in the city (BCCL/ Arvind Kumar)
The city has also gained popularity as a hot spot for destination business meeting. Corporate groups are holding their dealers and corporate meeting. “These are mostly held during the off season of tourism as it is only at that time of the year we are able to give them bulk rooms. This kind of tourism comes under the MICE which stands for Meeting, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions, which has really gone up. These meetings have a strong leisure aspect which the city provides in ample that goes in favour of the city. The ghats, Ganga aarti, boat ride, gives a perfect post evening entertainment. Similarly now the city being well-connected by air has added to easy accessibility giving a spurt to tourism,” says Ajay Mishra, Operation Manager, of Hotel Surya hotel.

A foreign tourist seek help from a localite who guides him with the best locations to capture
on his camera lens (BCCL/ Arvind Kumar)
The infrastructure upgradation has helped the numbers to grow. Tourist-friendly facilities like a cruise is adding to the pleasure of experiencing the city. Vivek Malaviya, Director of a company operating a cruise across River Ganga says, “We have had a tremendous response over the last one year, since we have been operating the cruise. The tourists board the cruise from Ravidas Ghat and go upto Rajghat and back. During the nearly one-and-a-half journey, we stop for the Ganga aarti, that is held in the evening.”



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