As Covid restrictions ease and people pull out their travel bags, the travel and hotel industry is witnessing a 35-40 percent increase in business in spiritual tourist locations such as temple cities. “Spiritual tourism is on the rise in our destinations including Haridwar, Rishikesh, Varanasi and Chardham. We expect a 40 percent increase in sales due to strong demand with solid prices,” Vibhas Prasad, director of Leisure Hotels Group, told FinancialExpress.com. According to online travel portal ixigo, the number of searches for religious places such as Katra (83 percent), Tirupati (73 percent), Haridwar (36 percent), Rishikesh (38 percent), Rameswaram (34 percent) has increased. ), Agra (29 percent), Prayagraj (22 percent) and Varanasi (14 percent).
India is known as a land of spiritual enlightenment; tourists love to explore the country’s temple towns, and after the pandemic, there has been a sudden spike in the number of people visiting religious sites. “Since the opening of tourist destinations, we have witnessed a spike in bookings in pilgrimage destinations in India. Srinagar, with a growth of 3.5 times, saw the highest peak for the period January-April 2022 compared to the same last year, followed by other destinations such as Pahalgam, Jammu, Varanasi, Tirupati, Bodhgaya, Shirdi, and others,” said a spokesperson. from OYO.
What does spirituality add?
After the pandemic, people/travelers have realized the importance of practicing meditation, mindfulness and self-care. Also, programs like PRASAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive) and various initiatives of the Ministry of Tourism are hugely stimulating the segment.
“As the birthplace of yoga, the land of countless ashrams and shrines, home to millions of temples and sacred sites, India is the perfect place to experience a spiritual retreat. Since the covid restrictions were lifted by the states, the revenue growth of these properties has been quite significant,” said Vishal Lonkar, General Manager – Brand Development, Renest Hotels & Resorts.
“In my opinion, there are two main reasons for growth in spiritual tourism: first, the focus is on spiritual and mental well-being; and second, there has been a massive improvement in tourism infrastructure in many of the prominent spiritual destinations,” said Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder & MD, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts.
The new target segment
While spiritual destinations were especially popular among the older generation, today many young working professionals go to spiritual cities to practice mindfulness and improve 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 way; therefore, spiritual tourism has also become a hit among millennials and young adults. “We at Yatra.com have witnessed an 80-90 percent increase in booking inquiries and requests across all age groups. Realizing the importance of meditation, mindfulness, visualization and self-care after witnessing difficult times during COVID is one of the main reasons people are drawn to spiritualism,” said Aditya Gupta, Senior Vice President – Hotels and Holidays, Yatra. com.
“We’ve seen new age travelers travel to two of our locations in Rishikesh and Varanasi, where we have the youth-focused Bedzzz brand. This can be because of reasons such as: Inner journey – Mind, body and soul; Better infrastructure at the destination; and better connectivity,” says Vibhas Prasad.
Vishal Lonkar also added, “A primary reason why millennials and young adults show a high level of interest in popular religious and spiritual destinations as opposed to other travel destinations is the increase in stress levels.”
Holy marriage for a reason
There has also been an increase in the number of wedding bookings at these locations and a number of hotels have supported this trend with the increase in the wedding booking rate at properties in the temple cities 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 marriage in these spiritual cities,” Sarbendra Sarkar said. Cygnett has recently added new premises in Vrindavan and is equipped to take advantage of the wedding market in the Temple City.
As demand increases, hotels are also increasing their ARR (Average Room Rate). “During travel restrictions, we had reduced the ARR by 40 percent to optimize occupancy. Following the surge in domestic leisure activities and as a result of increased demand, we have seen ARRs bounce back and even increase to 25 percent for some properties,” said Vibhas Prasad.