Hospitality chains of India ranging from ITC Hotels and Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) to brands like Lemon Tree and companies like Sterling Holidays are ramping up their presence in religious destinations in and outside India.
Over 870 keys had been signed across religious destinations like Amritsar, Dwarka and Haridwar till September 2019. The hotels’ rooms are expected to be operational within the next two years.
“Faith related travel is seeing a rise. ITC Hotels launched Welcomhotel Amritsar in December. In a city where the Golden Temple remains a perennial destination, Welcomhotel Amritsar is becoming a favourite MICE destination as well. In the next few years we have hotels opening in Katra, Konark and Pushkar,” said Anil Chadha, COO, ITC Hotels.
Soon after the launch of Taj Makkah in 2018 and the Taj Rishikesh Resort & Spa last year, IHCL announced the launch of Taj Tirupati in November. Along with launching Lemon Tree Premier hotel in Dwarka right outside the Dwarkadhish temple in the next four to five months, Lemon Tree is set to expand the branches in Rishikesh as well.
“This is not just our direction, but everybody’s direction because religious tourism is dependent on auspicious dates and not on seasonality. It tends to have a good pattern regardless of what happens in the country because people just need to go there and they go with families. It is not an individual destination,” said Rattan Keswani, deputy managing director, Lemon Tree Hotels. “While we are focused on expanding our resort portfolio we are also looking at increasing our pilgrimage portfolio,” he added.
Jaideep Dang, managing director of JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group explained how pilgrimage cities in India have always been attracting tourism in great volumes. “A reason for growth in activity in pilgrimage cities now is increasing air connectivity. Look at Bodhgaya, Varanasi, Dharamshala, Rishikesh, Trupati and Amritsar. The number of flights to these destinations have increased manifold, which means more tourists coming in and more hotel brands thinking of expansion,” he added.