Lucknow: Ayodhya, the spiritual epicenter of India, has experienced an unprecedented surge in its hospitality sector following the consecration of Ram Lalla. In the first three days post-Pran Pratishtha, the city's hotels reported earnings of almost ₹20 crores, a record-breaking feat according to local hoteliers.
Sharad Kapoor, President of the Faizabad Hotel Association, expressed his astonishment, stating, "It is a record for Ayodhya as, in the first three days - between January 22 and January 24 - the hotels of all shapes and sizes in Ayodhya have earned anything between ₹15-20 crores." He attributed this remarkable success to "Ram ji ki kripa," emphasizing that such a magnitude of business had never been witnessed before, even during traditional mela times.
Ayodhya hotels see a huge influx of tourists
The influx of pilgrims was extraordinary, with over 7.50 lakh devotees visiting Ayodhya on January 23 and 24, and an additional 50,000 on the consecration day of Ram Lalla (January 22). Despite frigid temperatures of 2.9 degrees Celsius, the unwavering devotion of the pilgrims prevailed as they flocked to Ayodhya for a darshan of Ram Lalla. An estimated 5 lakh devotees visited on January 23, followed by over 2.5 lakh on the subsequent day, surpassing initial expectations.
Anil Agarwal, Secretary of the Faizabad Hotel Association, clarified that the massive crowd comprised mainly of people from neighboring districts who visited Ayodhya for a brief period. Nevertheless, hotel occupancy reached over 60 percent on January 23 and 24, surpassing earlier projections.
Room rates increased
The peak of business for local hotels occurred on January 22 when "No Vacancy" boards adorned every establishment. In response to the overwhelming demand, some hotels increased room rates by four to five times. Kapoor revealed that a premier hotel charged ₹1.50 lakh for a suite for a night, compared to the usual rate of ₹10,000 plus GST.
Defending the surge in prices, Kapoor humorously remarked, "This is a principle; if there is demand, prices go up, and even the Government follows that." Drawing a parallel with other transportation sectors, he stated, "The Indian Railways and airlines have flexi fare. They charge commuters depending upon the need. The same thing happened with hotels in Ayodhya."
While hoteliers anticipate a settling down of room rents, they also foresee a similar rush continuing until Ram Navami on April 17. Shri Ram Janama Bhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust officials also expect a massive surge on Ram Navami, with inquiries pouring in from across the country.
A local tour operator, Ananya Sharma, noted that requests for bookings in mid-April, coinciding with Ram Navami, are pouring in from the southern part of the country. She attributed this to the pleasant weather and the conclusion of exams, anticipating a surge in devotees at that time.
Major hoteliers show keen interest in investing in Ayodhya
Ayodhya, with its 150 hotels and growing interest from major hotel chains like Marriott International, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, and the JLL Group, is emerging as a hub for both spiritual and economic activities. Even global brands like Park Inn by Radisson are investing in the city.
Arun Agarwal, owner of Hotel Abha Palace, highlighted the accommodation shortage, stating, "Around 3,500 to 4,000 rooms are available. This is far less than the present requirement." Major hotel chains recognize Ayodhya's potential, with projects from the Tata Group's Indian Hotels Company featuring Taj Hotels and Vivanta brands.
Ravi Singh, a representative of IHCL, expressed their commitment to Ayodhya's growth, stating, "We see Ayodhya as an emerging hub, and our projects reflect our commitment to contribute to the city's growth. The historical and spiritual significance of Ayodhya makes it a compelling destination."
Garish Oberoi, President of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India, envisions a promising future for Ayodhya's hospitality industry. He believes that in the coming days, Ayodhya will not only be a spiritual center but also a hub for cultural and economic activities. The hospitality sector, he added, is gearing up to play a pivotal role in ensuring a comfortable and memorable stay for visitors.