The rapid expansion of spiritual tourism in India is driving the growth of the country's faith-based tourism and retail market, with retail brands across segments, including fashion & apparel, food & beverage, hypermarkets, homeware & department stores and consumer electronics, expanding by tailoring the offerings to the pilgrim’s needs, according to CBRE South Asia.

The real estate consulting firm’s report, ‘Decoding Real Estate through the Spiritual Tourism Lens’, highlights that as more pilgrims and spiritual seekers visit holy cities in India, the two sectors -- spiritual tourism and retail -- are benefitting the most from the increased footfall.

The trend reflects a broader shift in tourist preferences, with travellers seeking “transformative experiences” beyond traditional rituals, says the report, adding that the rise of “urban spiritual tourism” is attracting visitors to cities known for deep religious and spiritual significance.

The report identifies Amritsar, Ajmer, Varanasi, Katra, Somnath, Shirdi, Ayodhya, Puri, Tirupati, Mathura, Dwarka, Bodh Gaya, Guruvayur, and Madurai as key cities witnessing this retail boom. In these, retail brands are strategically adapting offerings in both established mall clusters and high-street locations to cater to the growing tourist population, the report says.

To meet the growing demand for spiritual travel, local governments and businesses are also joining forces to create unique retail experiences, the report observes. “This includes integrating local practices into the design and offerings of shops, restaurants, and hotels. Cities like Amritsar, Varanasi, Madurai, Puri, Guruvayur, etc. are leveraging unique culinary traditions and local fashion expertise to attract and engage visitors."

In terms of revenue, too, spiritual tourism remains an attractive revenue stream for India's hospitality sector. Several cities have a strong pipeline of new hotel projects, with well-known brands like Marriott, Taj, and Hyatt showing keen interest in entering the market, the report adds.

Moreover, a partnership has developed between wellness centres and hospitality brands to serve the needs of spiritual tourism. “Wellness centres offer services like yoga and Ayurveda to enhance physical, mental, and spiritual health. Meanwhile, hospitality brands create serene environments, customised wellness programs and provide access to sacred sites and temples for immersive spiritual experiences.”

Anshuman Magazine, chairman & CEO - India, South-East Asia, Middle East & Africa, CBRE, says government initiatives to promote tourism and improve connectivity between pilgrimage sites are further boosting this growth. “The rise of online retail platforms offering easy access to faith-based products and services is also a key factor.”

Ram Chandnani, MD, Advisory & Transaction Services, CBRE India, thinks that driven by the growing popularity of spiritual tourism, investors are flocking to capitalise on the market's potential. “These investments aim to deliver high-quality accommodations, bolster infrastructure, safeguard heritage sites, and ultimately drive regional economic growth.”

In its outlook, the CBRE says urban spiritual tourism will lead to an evolving landscape of real estate in the hospitality, retail and residential sectors. It will also propel growth in specialised offerings, preservation of heritage sites, economic & infrastructure growth and • revitalisation of surrounding areas.

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