With the easing of Covid restrictions and people getting out their travel bags, the travel and hospitality industry is seeing a 35-40% increase in business in spiritual tourist locations such as temple cities. “Spiritual tourism is booming in our destinations including Haridwar, Rishikesh, Varanasi and Chardham. We expect a 40% increase in our revenue due to strong demand with firm prices,” Vibhas Prasad, director, Leisure Hotels Group, told FinancialExpress.com. According to online travel portal ixigo, there has been an increase in searches for religious places like Katra (83%), Tirupati (73%), Haridwar (36%), Rishikesh (38%), Rameswaram (34%) . ), Agra (29%), Prayagraj (22%) and Varanasi (14%).
India is known to be a land of spiritual enlightenment; tourists love to explore the country’s temple cities and after the pandemic there was a sudden increase in the number of people visiting religious places. “Since the opening of tourist destinations, we have witnessed an increase in bookings in pilgrimage destinations in India. Srinagar, with 3.5 times growth, saw the highest peak for the period January-April 2022 compared to the same year last year, followed by other destinations like Pahalgam, Jammu, Varanasi, Tirupati, Bodh Gaya, Shirdi among others,” a spokesperson from OYO said.
What adds to spirituality?
After the pandemic, people/travelers realized the importance of practicing meditation, mindfulness and self-care. In addition, programs such as PRASAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive) and various Ministry of Tourism initiatives are significantly pushing the segment.
“Being the cradle of yoga, the land of countless ashrams and shrines, home to millions of temples and holy places, India is the perfect place to experience a spiritual retreat. Since the covid restrictions were lifted by the states, revenue growth from 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 the growth of spiritual tourism: first, the emphasis is on spiritual and mental well-being; and second, there has been tremendous improvement in tourism infrastructure in many leading spiritual destinations,” said Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder and Managing Director of Cygnett Hotels and Resorts.
The new target segment
While spiritual destinations have been popular primarily among the older generation, today many young professionals are heading to spiritual cities to practice mindfulness and improve their spiritual well-being. One of the changes brought about by the pandemic is that people have started talking about mental wellbeing more openly; this is why spiritual tourism has also become a hit with millennials and young adults. “At Yatra.com, we have seen an 80-90% increase in booking requests and inquiries across all age groups. The awareness of the importance of meditation, mindfulness , visualization and self-care after witnessing hard 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 have seen new age travelers travel to two of our locations in Rishikesh and Varanasi, where we have the youth-focused Bedzzz brand. This may be due to reasons such as: Inner Journey – Mind, Body & Soul; Better infrastructure in the destination; and better connectivity,” said Vibhas Prasad.
Vishal Lonkar also added, “Increased stress levels are one of the main reasons why millennials and young adults are showing high interest in popular religious and spiritual destinations as opposed to other travel destinations.”
holy marriage for a reason
There has also been an increase in wedding bookings in these locations and a number of hotels have supported this trend with the increase in booking percentage for weddings at properties in temple cities of India. “Young people are fascinated by the mixture of history and spiritualism that places like Varanasi, Puri or Rishikesh offer. We are seeing an increase in the number of people opting for destination weddings in these spiritual cities,” said Sarbendra Sarkar. Cygnett recently added a new property in Vrindavan and is equipped to tap into the wedding market in the temple town.
As demand increases, hotels are also increasing their ARR (Average Room Rate). “During travel restrictions, we had lowered the ARR by 40% to optimize occupancy. Following the surge in domestic leisure activities and due to increased demand, we have seen ARRs rebound and have actually increased by up to 25% at some properties,” said Vibhas Prasad.