Hospitality industry aims to cash in on religious tourism gaining momentum in Ayodhya
Ayodhya, 30 April (HS): The hospitality sector is flocking to Ayodhya as religious tourism in India
Hospitality industry aims to cash in on religious tourism gaining momentum in Ayodhya

Ayodhya, 30 April (HS): The hospitality sector is flocking to Ayodhya as religious tourism in India grows, and the forthcoming Ram Temple adds another draw to the ancient location. Companies lined up to establish new hotels in Uttar Pradesh, from prominent 5-star brands like Taj, Radisson, and ITC Hotels to budget players like OYO, have their share of the 25,000 rooms projected by the Uttar Pradesh government in the future.Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL), a Tata Group hospitality enterprise, aims to open two additional properties, while Radisson has a similar intention.

ITC Hotels, another key participant, is also looking into chances in Ayodhya to meet rising demand, which is expected to reach 4 crore tourists yearly by 2031 under the Ayodhya Master Plan 2031, up from 2 crore visits currently.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, OYO wants to open 50 new facilities in Ayodhya in 2023, including 25 homestays and 25 small and medium hotels with 10 to 20 rooms each, in conjunction with the Ayodhya Development Authority and the Uttar Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation. Executive Vice President of Real Estate and Development at IHCL Suma Venkatesh stated that spiritual tourism, which has been in India since antiquity, has grown in popularity in recent years, particularly after a 'black swan' occurrence like as the COVID-19 epidemic, when people are seeking for deeper meanings in real life. With the construction of the (Ram) temple in Ayodhya, we are seeing an increase in the number of visitors. Quality infrastructure, tourism infrastructure, and so on will be required. Ayodhya is a significant pilgrimage site.

It is known to be the birthplace of Lord Ram, who is revered as one of Hinduism's most important deities, Venkatesh said. IHCL has secured management contracts for two new properties in Ayodhya: a Vivanta-branded 100-room hotel and a Ginger-branded 120-room hotel, both of which are slated to open in 36 months. We have been in many pilgrim destinations across the country, she added, and Ayodhya presents a great opportunity for brands like ours because with the temple being built, there is already huge interest. KB Kachru, Vice President of the Hotel Association of India and Chairman Emeritus & Principal Advisor, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group, acknowledged that there is an increase in visitor interest in visiting Ayodhya.

Today, almost 2 crore people visit Ayodhya (on a yearly basis). So it's a really optimistic indication, he said, adding that the master plan anticipates an increase to 4 crore yearly by 2031.

He regretted, though, that the Indian hotel industry was slow to adapt to the destination. Unfortunately, our industry did not move quickly on it. But I believe that all of the corporations' efforts are now there. Everyone is building hotels and backup facilities in the area. We anticipate that there will be close to 25,000 rooms in the next six to seven years. On Radisson's plans for Ayodhya, he stated, We, as Radisson Hotels, are looking at doing two hotels on our own under the Radisson brand -- Park Inn and Individuals.

Ayodhya currently has roughly 17 hotels with less than 600 rooms available, with demand outstripping supply, giving an opportunity for hospitality technology platforms like OYO to satisfy current demand while also planning for the future. Today, the plan is to open 50 hotels, because there are currently very few hotels or homestays available in Ayodhya. Because the area is still developing, our goal is to tap into the demand as soon as possible and begin providing accommodation or a good experience and hospitality experience, OYO Chief Business Development Officer Anuj Tejpal said.

As the Uttar Pradesh government invests heavily in the city's infrastructure development to improve connectivity via rail, road, and air, hospitality players are eager to set up new properties there. We have seen that there is so much infrastructure development that has taken place (at Ayodhya)...there is a lot of interest in the market as well, in terms of hotel development, ITC Hotels Head of Growth & Development Smita Thadani said. When questioned about ITC Hotels' intentions for Ayodhya, she stated, We've been approached by separate developers to owners who want to develop hotels, and we're evaluating certain opportunities across our brands to see if we can bring all of our brands into this city.

With the state government focusing on building good infrastructure to connect Ayodhya to major cities such as Lucknow and Gorakhpur, as well as other major economic centres, hospitality industry players believe that the city will attract more tourists across all segments, providing opportunities to operate hotels at various price points, ranging from budget to luxury, to cater to different segments of the market.

Pilgrim centres draw individuals from all walks of life...As more people visit, we anticipate an increase in demand for hotels that operate at various price ranges and cater to various market segments. As a result, we see a lot of opportunity for all of our brands to penetrate Ayodhya over time, IHCL's Venkatesh said.

Hindusthan Samachar/Abhishek Awasthi/Manoj

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