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Seeing India's love for gods, hotels put faith in religious locations

Till September 2019, over 870 keys had been signed across religious destinations like Amritsar, Dwarka and Haridwar last year, showed data real estate services firm JLL shared with ET. These rooms across hotels are expected to be operational in the next two years.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 13, 2020, 02.53 PM IST
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Chains ranging from Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) and ITC Hotels to brands like Lemon Tree and Wyndham and companies like Sterling Holidays are ramping up their presence in religious destinations in and outside India.

Till September 2019, over 870 keys had been signed across religious destinations like Amritsar, Dwarka and Haridwar last year, showed data real estate services firm JLL shared with ET. These rooms across hotels are expected to be operational in 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.

After launching the Taj Makkah in 2018 and the Taj Rishikesh Resort & Spa last year, IHCL announced the launch of Taj Tirupati in November. Lemon Tree will launch a Lemon Tree Premier in Rishikesh this month and a Red Fox hotel in Neelkanth outside Rishikesh subsequently. It will also launch a Lemon Tree Premier hotel in Dwarka right outside the Dwarkadhish temple in the next four to five months.

“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, said pilgrimage cities in India have always been attracting high tourist volumes but hotel developers took time to read that demand. “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.

Nikhil Sharma, area director for Eurasia at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, said his chain’s current presence includes hotels at various religious locations including Amritsar, Varanasi and Ajmer, while the development pipeline includes other destinations including Dwarka, Tirupati, Shirdi, and Katra.

Zubin Saxena, MD and VP operations at Radisson Hotel Group said his chain is already present in cities like Haridwar, Varanasi, and Amritsar and is planning to expand in Katra and Dharamshala.

A subsidiary of Thomas Cook, Chennai-based Sterling Holidays, which has plans of doubling its room portfolio to 5000 rooms by 2024, launched a new property in the Guruwayur temple town in South India last year.

“We redefined our holiday universe. The customers take multiple holidays now. We feel people do set aside time to go to religious places,” said Ramesh Ramanathan, chairman, Sterling Holidays.
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