With Covid-restrictions easing and people getting their travel bags out, the travel and hotel industry is witnessing a 35-40 per cent increase in business at spiritual tourist locations such as temple towns. “Spiritual tourism is on the upswing at our destinations including Haridwar, Rishikesh, Varanasi, and Chardham. We anticipate a 40 per cent increase in revenue because of the robust demand with firm pricing,” Vibhas Prasad, Director, Leisure Hotels Group, told FinancialExpress.com. According to online travel portal ixigo, there has been increase in searches for religious places like Katra (83 per cent), Tirupati (73 per cent), Haridwar (36 per cent), Rishikesh (38 per cent), Rameswaram (34 per cent), Agra(29 per cent), Prayagraj (22 per cent) and Varanasi (14 per cent).
India is known to be a land of spiritual enlightenment; tourists love to explore the temple towns of the country and post the pandemic, there has been a sudden spike in the number of people visiting religious places. “Since the opening of tourist destinations, we have witnessed a spike in bookings across pilgrimage destinations in India. Srinagar, with 3.5 times growth, saw the highest spike for the period January-April 2022 as compared to the same last year, followed by other destinations like Pahalgam, Jammu, Varanasi, Tirupati, Bodhgaya, Shirdi, among others,” said a spokesperson from OYO.
What’s adding to spirituality?
After the pandemic, people/ travellers have realised the importance of practising meditation, mindfulness and self-care. Also, schemes like PRASAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive) and various initiatives by the Ministry of Tourism, are pushing the segment in a big way.
“Being the birthplace of yoga, the land of innumerable ashrams and shrines, home to millions of temples and holy places, India is the perfect place for experiencing a spiritual retreat. Ever since the covid restrictions were lifted by the states, the revenue growth from these properties has been quite significant,” said Vishal Lonkar, General Manager – Brand Development, Renest Hotels & Resorts.
“In my view there are two main reasons for growth in spiritual tourism: first is the focus on spiritual and mental well-being; and secondly, there has been a tremendous improvement in the tourist infrastructure in many of the prominent spiritual destinations,” said Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder & MD, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts.
The new target segment
While spiritual destinations have been popular mostly among the older generation, today many young working professionals are heading to spiritual towns to practise mindfulness and enhance their spiritual well-being. One of the changes the pandemic has brought is that people have started talking about mental wellbeing in a more open manner; which is why spiritual tourism has become a hit among millennials and young adults as well. “We at Yatra.com have witnessed a hike in booking demands and enquiries by 80-90 per cent across all age groups. The realisation of the importance of meditation, mindfulness, visualisation, and self-care after witnessing difficult times during COVID is one of the major reasons people are getting pulled towards spiritualism,” said Aditya Gupta, Senior Vice President – Hotels and Holidays, Yatra.com.
“We have seen new age travellers travelling to two of our locations in Rishikesh and Varanasi, where we have the youth-centric brand Bedzzz. This could be because of reasons like: Inner Journey – Mind, Body & Soul; Better Infrastructure in the destination; and Better Connectivity,” said Vibhas Prasad.
Vishal Lonkar also added, “A primary reason why millennials and young adults are showing high interest in popular religious and spiritual destinations as opposed to other travel destinations is the increase in stress levels.”
Holy matrimony for a reason
There has also been a rise in wedding bookings across these locations and a number of hotels have backed this trend with the rise in booking percentage for weddings at properties in the temple towns of India. “Young people are fascinated by the mix of history and spiritualism that places like Varanasi, Puri or Rishikesh offer. We are seeing a growth in the number of people opting for destination weddings in these spiritual towns,” said Sarbendra Sarkar. Cygnett has recently added a new property in Vrindavan and is equipped to tap into the weddings market in the temple town.
While the demand is increasing, hotels are also increasing their ARR (Average Room Rate). “During travel restrictions, we had lowered the ARR by 40 per cent to optimise occupancy. Following the surge in leisure domestic business and due to the increased demands, we have seen the ARRs bounce back and in fact have risen up to 25 per cent across some properties,” said Vibhas Prasad.