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Worship cum luxury

Religious tourism gets an overhaul with the coming up of luxury hotels at various pilgrimage destinations.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2011 01:50 IST
Navdeep Kaur Marwah

The religious destinations are no longer just places of worship. The tourism industry is realising the vast untapped potential of religious spots as the new destination of choice. And if one was to say that religious tourism in the country has taken a new dimension with the coming up of luxury hotels in religious destinations across the country, then it won’t be an exaggeration.

Many of the leading chains of hotels like Ista, Radisson, Country Inn and Suites by Carlton have opened their hotels in popular religious spots such as Haridwar, Amritsar, Katra and Varanasi to name a few.

The fact that the pilgrims are not ready to compromise on facilities and comfort and opt for luxury hotels vis-à-vis staying in a dharamshala, seems to have led to this trend of luxury hotels coming up in religious spots. Kuldeep Sharma, Manager operations, Country Inn & Suites by Carlson, Katra says, “Vaishno Devi shrine sees numerous visitors throughout the year. And we have seen that the pilgrims go for comfort, even if they have to pay high for it.” Rajiv Kumar Rai, director sales at Radisson Varanasi says, “For pilgrims, safety and hygiene are most important when deciding where they want to stay.”

Most luxury hotels aim at making the trip a memorable experience for devotees. Sharma says, “Today, being religious does not mean abstinence from luxury and comfort.” Affluent travellers from across key cities in India are combining religious destination visits with rest and relaxation in luxurious confines. “We have a growing segment of NRIs and foreign tourists visiting from UK, Israel, US, Germany, and Thailand and they expect nothing less from us. Also, many newly-wed Sikh and Punjabi couples from over the world, come to seek the divine blessings,” adds Sharma.

We were invited to one of such luxury hotel called Ista in Amritsar. The hotel which is the only five star hotel in Amritsar, is doing great business thanks to the pilgrims, who go to visit The Golden Temple.

Located at about a half-hour drive from the Amritsar International Airport and just about five kilometres from The Golden Temple, the hotel has a courteous staff, and great ambience to the delectable food. Once you are here, we recommend you to visit the spa at the hotel, which is run by therapists trained by Ananda in the Himalayas.

Fact file
Where to stay in Amritsar: Ista Amritsar, Main GT Road, Amritsar

How to reach there: By Air: Raja Sani International Airport is well connected through Jet Airways, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Air India

By Rail: Delhi is directly connected to Amritsar via rail route. It takes about 8 to 10 hours to reach Amritsar by train.