Hotel chains are launching new properties and upgrading existing ones to tap the growing demand for pilgrimage tourism in the country.

Last month, Marriott International opened Le Méridien hotel in Amritsar, it’s third property in the city. ITC Hotels too, opened a hotel under the Fortune brand in Amritsar, strengthening its footprint in the region.

While the Golden Temple is the main attraction for devotees from around the world, hotels in Amritsar also depend on business travellers and NRIs.

“We have seen 30 per cent growth in overall revenue at our properties in Amritsar in H1 2023 compared with the same period in 2019,” said Arun Kumar, market vice president (North India, Nepal, and Bhutan), Marriott International.

Apart from Amritsar, Marriott International has hotels in Rishikesh and Mahabalipuram that cater to religious tourism.

“Our development teams continue to scout for growth opportunities in cities where religious tourism is growing. We are open to both greenfield and brownfield projects,” Kumar added

In the current fiscal year, Indian Hotel Company Limited (IHCL) will open a hotel under the SeleQtions brand in Tirupati. IHCL is also adding a 100-room tower to the Taj Ganges hotel in Varanasi.

Radisson Hotel Group is soon opening a hotel in Guruvayur and is exploring opportunities in Ayodhya and Tirupati. Hotels in pilgrimage destinations are witnessing good footfall and will continue to be a growth area for us, Zubin Saxena, Managing Director and area senior vice president at Radisson, said.

“There is a buoyancy in India’s travel and tourism sector overall, and the industry has witnessed a healthy growth in occupancies as well as average room rates over the pre-pandemic times. This is benefitting hotels in places with religious or spiritual significance as well,” said Suma Venkatesh, executive vice president, real estate and development, IHCL.

Religious tourism found a mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann ki Baat’ last Sunday.

“Now more than 10 crore tourists are reaching Kashi every year. The number of devotees visiting pilgrimages like Ayodhya, Mathura, and Ujjain is also increasing rapidly,” Modi said.

Infrastructure development and government focus on developing religious sites under various schemes are also spurring growth, consultancy HVS Anarock said in an analysis last year.

The development momentum is expected to continue with the growing demand.

“Amritsar has the largest concentration of branded hotels among pilgrimage towns in India, with 28 properties and over 2,000 rooms. In terms of upcoming hotels, Amritsar leads with 14 hotels under development that will add over 1500 rooms over the next 2-3 years,” said Jaideep Dang, Managing Director, hotels and hospitality groups JLL India.

“Varanasi has the highest potential for the growth of hotels, but development has been limited due to the non-availability of land parcels within the city. Yet Varanasi, along with Tirupati, Haridwar, and Vrindavan will see addition of around 1,500 rooms over the next 3-4 years,” Dang said.