New Delhi: A church-based tour operator has bagged the prestigious National Tourism Award for the ‘Best Inbound Tour Operator’ category at the World Tourism Day celebrations in New Delhi on September 27. 

International Pilgrimage Revolution (IPR), which offers pilgrimage-based tourism across the world, was given this award by the Vice President of India, Jagdeep Dhankhar, at the Plenary Hall, Vigyan Bhawan, in the presence of Union Minister of Tourism G. Kishan Reddy and MoS Tourism Ajay Bhatt, Secretary Tourism Arvind Singh and other senior officers of the ministry. 

Presenting the tourism awards, the Vice President said, “This award is not just for your outstanding achievements in the tourism sector but also for your contribution to the country’s economy.”  

A total of 81 awards were given away this year highlighting the achievements of the tourism industry in 2018-19.

Acknowledging the award on behalf of IPR, the Chairman Father Tomy Joseph, a Catholic Priest based in the Miao diocese in Arunachal Pradesh, said, “This award is a big boost for the hardworking staff at IPR. Receiving this award after two years lull due to pandemic is a good sign of things to come.” 

While explaining the reason why he is into tourism, Father Joseph said, “There are many ministries within the church like education, healthcare and social work. Not many within the church look at tourism as a ministry even though the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy promulgated the document ‘General Directory for the Pastoral Ministry to Tourism 1969’.” 

Outlining the values of tourism according to the document, Father Joseph said the purpose of tourism ministry is to turn the tourist time into a time of eternal salvation, “appreciating the beauty of God in creation, the unity of the human family, its social transformation and elevation, fostering solidarity with the rest of the universe, and restoration of the human person”.  

“Tourism ministry helps overcome segregation between people by encouraging to allay social prejudices and it diminishes racial divisions and promotes the unity of the people of God,” said Father Joesph, who plunged into travel ministry in 2007.

“Bringing a group of Germans to India was the turning point. They felt safe and secure to be accompanied by a Catholic Priest that made me reflect on the possibility of helping people move hassle-free, based on the teachings of the Church”, said Father Joesph who founded IPR in 2015 with the help of a few priests.

Congratulating the IPR, Bishop George Pallipparambil of Miao diocese who became its chief patron in 2018, said “It was not easy to pull through the covid days. But they managed with diligence and dedication. I wish the IPR team great success and flights into greater heights in the days to come.” 

With its corporate office in Delhi and branches in Munich, Bombay, Delhi, Cochin, Guwahati and Manali, IPR has facilitated 92 groups from different countries to India and nearly 3000 Indian tourists to move within India and abroad before the pandemic halted the tourism industry. The company has taken 150 pilgrim groups to the Holy Land. It also brought 13 Germans to North East India for a week-long trip to Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, Majuli Island, Sibsagar Rang Ghar, Namsai Golden Pagoda, Miao Tibetan Settlement, Jairampur World War Cemetery and Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh in 2019. 

Expanding its scope of operation beyond travelling, IPR has ventured into event management, destination wedding, meeting, conventions, consultancy and legal assistance to NGOs and institutions across the country.  

“This award is an acknowledgement of our team’s hard work and a validation that we are on the right track”, said Sunu Jomon, IPR’s Deputy Manager, air-ticketing and James K.M. Manager for Inbound Operation, who were there to receive the award on behalf of the company. 

“With Covid becoming a thing of the past and life returning to normalcy, this award for a Church-based tour operator augurs well for pilgrimage tourism and gives a new dimension to the Church,” said Father Joseph.  

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