Shopping is an indispensable part of the ilgrimage. Religious tourists buy myriad range of merchandise at religious destinations for their survival, religious or social needs. A lot of shopping is by the virtue of traditions.
Retailers across the world have capitalized on the opportunities of marketing their merchandise to pilgrims using all the possible techniques since time immemorial. It is difficult to trace the definitive history of retailing at religious destinations, and we get some ideas through the old pieces of literature and religious treatises. We can say that even thousands of years ago, people used to shop for items for their survival at these religious places, and they also used to buy memorabilia, and many other products of religious significance for their relatives and friends. It was the part of their social obligations to bring and distribute the items of religious significance to the members of their family and society. The merchandise included various edibles, photographs, replicas, statues and so on.
The merchandise these religious tourists purchased to carry them back to their homes differed a lot according to their faiths, culture, distances and various demographic variables. Pilgrims shop religious items to adorn their homes and offices or to gift these items to their relatives & friends in future. Religious items can serve as visual reminders of spiritual beliefs as well as inspire people and give them comfort in times of trouble. With changing times, modes of transportations changed, new religious destinations emerged, social practices changed and so a lot of changes happened in the merchandise in demand, and the ways these merchandise were retailed.
In the modern era, when first time in the human history we have the facilities virtual pilgrimage and live telecast from religious centers, the enthusiasm among the worshippers and other types of tourists has not dampened at all, rather the number of people visiting the religious destinations and the frequency of visits are continuously increasing worldwide. The modern transportation infrastructure and related facilities facilitate the rapid movement of larger volume of merchandise of any size and features. To boot, the new means of promotion help in attracting the shoppers to the stores in larger number.
The retailing at pilgrim centers may not be sophisticated and high end as airport retailing, but the number of stores and volume of trade is much higher. The pilgrim retail is still largely unorganized, and we do not have many international retail chains catering the shoppers at these religious places. There are large number of small shops, and the retailing practices are still traditional.We rarely find salespeople in uniform talking in sophisticated language, and the use of plastic money is still limited. Although, some modernization is visible in a few high end hotels at these religious places, but these hotels cater to a very small proportion of religious tourists.
All these facts hint toward the huge opportunity of modernizing the retailing at pilgrim centers, which can result in better economies of scale, better merchandises, improved services and enhanced customer satisfaction. The modernization will be beneficial for all the stakeholders including retailers’ religious tourists and others. It may even help in increasing the number of tourists to these religious places, because it will bring the tourists hooked to modern retail practices in larger number and for longer durations.
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