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Sacred Cities See a Retail Boom as Spiritual Tourism Surge: CBRE Report

March 28, 2024: CBRE South Asia Pvt. Ltd., on Thursday announced the findings of its report, Decoding Real Estate through the Spiritual Tourism Lens’. The report highlights retail chains capitalizing on the surge in spiritual tourism across 14 key cities in India. As more pilgrims and spiritual seekers visit holy cities in India, retail brands across segments, including fashion & apparel, food & beverage, hypermarkets, homeware & department stores and consumer electronics brands, are expanding by tailoring the offerings to the pilgrim’s needs. This trend underscores the symbiotic relationship between spiritual tourism and the retail industry, benefiting both sectors from the increased foot traffic.

This trend reflects a broader shift in tourist preferences, with travelers seeking transformative experiences beyond traditional rituals. The rise of urban spiritual tourism is catering to this desire, attracting visitors to cities known for their 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. Retail brands are strategically adapting their offerings in both established mall clusters and high-street locations to cater to the growing tourist population.

The surge in spiritual tourism can be attributed to enhanced infrastructure, including well-connected roads, airports, and public transportation, as well as the development of various accommodation options such as hotels, guesthouses, and wellness centres. To meet the growing demand for spiritual travel, local governments and businesses are joining forces to create unique retail experiences. 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 their unique culinary traditions and local fashion expertise to further attract and engage visitors.

These improvements ensure a comfortable and convenient stay for pilgrims, spiritual seekers, and travellers visiting these cities.

Key retail brands that have established retail presence in 14 cities
CityRetail SegmentKey Brands
AmritsarFashion & ApparelBata, Biba, Fabindia, Manyavar, Skechers, Woodland
Food & BeverageBarbeque Nation, Domino’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks
HypermarketD-Mart, Reliance Fresh, Reliance Smart
Consumer Electronics Imagine
AjmerFashion & ApparelMax, Blackberrys, Decathlon
Home & Department StoreMr DIY, Pantaloons
Food & BeverageBurger King, Domino’s
SomnathFashion & ApparelSpykar, Reliance Trends
Food & BeverageLa Pino’z
HypermarketReliance Smart
ShirdiFood & BeverageBaskin Robbins, Domino’s, McDonald’s
HypermarketReliance Smart
Fashion & ApparelFabIndia, Nike, Reliance Trends
AyodhyaFashion & ApparelManyavar, Reliance Trends, Raymonds
Homeware & Department StoreMarket99, Pantaloons
Food & BeverageDomino’s, Pizza Hut
HypermarketReliance Smart
PuriFashion & ApparelBlackberrys, Manyavar, Raymond, Reliance Trends, Bata
HypermarketReliance Smart,Bazaar Kolkata
Food & BeverageDomino’s, KFC, Basin Robbins
TirupatiFashion & ApparelLevi’s, Max, Puma, Style Union
Homeware & Department StorePantaloons
Consumer Electronics Croma
KatraFood & BeverageDomino’s, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King
MathuraFashion & ApparelFabindia, United Colors of Benetton, Zudio
Food & BeverageBurger King, Domino’s
HypermarketReliance Smart
Consumer ElectronicsCroma
DwarkaFood & BeverageAmul Ice cream
GuruvayurFashion & ApparelReliance Trends, Allen Solly, Jockey
Homeware & Department StoreReliance smart point
Food & BeverageChicking, Naturals Ice cream
MaduraiFashion & ApparelBIBA, Levi’s, Max, Trends,Van Heusen
Homeware & Department StoreWestside
Consumer ElectronicsCroma
VaranasiFashion & ApparelManyavar, Reliance Trends, Zudio
Homeware & Department StorePantaloons, Shoppers Stop
Food & BeverageBurger King, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s
HypermarketSpencer’s, Reliance smart
Consumer ElectronicsCroma, Reliance Digital
Bodh GayaFashion & ApparelBlackberrys, Fabindia, Manyavar, Raymond
Homeware & Department StorePantaloons, V Mart
HypermarketReliance Smart
Consumer ElectronicsReliance Digital

Leading hotels catering to spiritual travellers’ needs


Spiritual tourism remains an attractive revenue stream for India’s hospitality sector. Across various segments, such as economy, midscale, upscale and luxury, the hotel industry shows potential. Major hotel chains are adapting to the evolving preferences of spiritual tourists, offering clean, hygienic, and family-friendly accommodations that command premium pricing. Several cities have a strong pipeline of new hotel projects, with well-known brands like Marriott, Taj, and Hyatt showing keen interest in entering this market. Branded hotels are emerging as key players, offering a blend of comfort and traditional hospitality tailored for spiritual seekers. Boutique and experiential hotels provide personalised services, curated spiritual activities, and authentic local experiences. 

CityBranded Hotel
PuriMayfair Hotels
TirupatiTaj Hotels, ITC Hotels
AmritsarTaj Hotels, Novotel, Hilton, J W Mariott, ITC Hotels
VaranasiTaj Hotels, Radisson, Hilton 
AjmerTaj Hotels, Sheraton Hotels, The Westin
DwarkaLemon Tree Hotels, Club Mahindra 
Bodh GayaHyatt Hotels, Sarovar Premiere
MaduraiTaj Hotels, ITC Hotels, Marriott
KatraTaj Hotels, ITC Hotels

                              Source: Smith Travel Research (STR)

In India, a partnership has developed between wellness centres and hospitality brands to serve the needs of spiritual tourism. Wellness centers 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. This collaboration meets the needs of a growing number of travelers seeking a deep connection with India’s spiritual traditions, thus supporting the flourishing spiritual tourism sector.

Anshuman Magazine, Chairman & CEO – India, South-East Asia, Middle East & Africa, CBRE, said, “The rapid expansion of spiritual tourism in India is driving the growth of the country’s faith-based tourism market. 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, Managing Director, Advisory & Transaction Services, CBRE India, said, “Driven by the growing popularity of spiritual tourism, investors are flocking to capitalise on the market’s potential. Guided by a commitment to cater to the unique needs of spiritual travellers, these investments aim to deliver high-quality accommodations, bolster infrastructure, safeguard heritage sites, and ultimately drive regional economic growth. This trend has created opportunities for the hospitality and retail sectors to thrive in these destinations.”

Modern travellers’ quest for transformative experiences has propelled urban spiritual tourism. Enhanced infrastructure, including improved highways, upgraded railway stations, and new airports in cities like Varanasi, Ayodhya, Amritsar, etc. makes these spiritual hubs more accessible. Additionally, streamlined travel services such as online booking systems, tourist information centers, and heightened security measures enhance the overall travel experience. This shift towards experiential travel is largely driven by younger generations seeking cultural immersion and spiritual growth. Tour companies are responding to this demand by offering personalized pilgrimages and wellness programs that include activities like meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda.



  • Evolving landscape of real estate demand
    • Hospitality: Hotels, guesthouses, homestays, ashrams, etc., witness a surge in occupancy rates, triggering a wave of new construction and renovation projects in response to the growing demand.
    • Retail: Restaurants, souvenir shops, and various other businesses catering to tourists experience notable growth, creating a ripple effect of increased demand for retail spaces.
    • Residential: Local residents who benefit from increased economic activity may look for improved housing options, potentially leading to residential development.
  • Growth in specialised offerings
    • Specialised properties catering to spiritual tourists, such as yoga retreats, meditation centres, and wellness facilities, may present new investment and development opportunities in the real estate market.
  • Preservation of heritage sites
    • Developers / investors may collaborate with authorities to restore and repurpose heritage buildings, transforming them into tourist accommodations or cultural centres.
  • Economic & infrastructure growth
    • Increased real estate investment in spiritual tourism destinations fuels job creation in construction, hospitality, retail, and related sectors, contributing to the region’s overall economic development.
    • Improved infrastructure, such as transportation, sanitation, and waste management, enhances accessibility and visitor experience, attracting more tourists and further boosting the local economy.
  • Revitalization of surrounding areas
    • An influx of spiritual tourists stimulates local businesses, restaurants, and services, fostering a vibrant and thriving community which can lead to the revitalization of surrounding neighbourhoods and towns