Tourism in Rishikesh bounces after the Covid-19 pandemic

Tourism in Rishikesh bounces after the Covid-19 pandemic

Rishikesh in Uttarakhand has seen a flurry of travelers over the past couple of months since Covid-19 restrictions have been eased and people have picked up the confidence to venture out for vacations as infections decline steadily.

On weekends, hostels and hotels are nearly full and despite the fact that there are no foreign tourists, these places are not feeling the pinch. Long a spiritual town, Rishikesh, in the Himalayan foothills on the banks of the Ganges, has also become famous for river rafting and got a luxury touch with a number of upmarket hotels opening up.

Rishikesh is also benefitting because people feel safer going for holidays in their own vehicles since the pandemic, and the town is within comfortable driving distance of places like Delhi.

Dr. Shagun Sabbarwal and his wife from Yamunanagar in Haryana chose to spend their first holiday after the lockdown in Rishikesh this month. “We are here for the weekend to celebrate our anniversary,” he tells us. “We came to Rishikesh because it was a change from the usually crowded hill stations and we wanted some peace of mind.”

With a new railway station opening this year, more people are likely to make their way to this town. Earlier the closest railway station was Haridwar but now the Yog Nagri railway station is operational with a few special trains.

Over the years as Rishikesh became popular for rafting and as a center for yoga, many foreigners and backpackers made their way here. To cater to them, a number of popular hostels have cropped up such as Zostel, Hashtag, goSTOPS, and Moustache. Recently Leisure Hotels launched The Hideaway Bedzzz, a boutique hostel-cum-hotel – as it offers both bunk beds as well as rooms.

Despite the fact that foreigners are no longer coming, most of the hostels are reporting high occupancies, as people cooped up for months decide to venture out.

But the premium traveler is also lured to visit this scenic town and hence many luxury hotels have opened up in the past couple of years. Taj Rishikesh Resort & Spa, The Roseate Ganges, Lemontree Premier, Sterling Palm Bliss are some of them.

Some of these hotels have opened slightly away from the main town on the Rishikesh-Badrinath Road but business is good for them because luxury travelers prefer to be away from the buzz of the town.

At The Roseate Ganges in Rishikesh, there has been an upswing in occupancies month on month since its reopening in July last year and by October, it was sold out on all weekends. For such hotels targeting micro markets is the key now. “International travel cannot resume immediately hence there is a need to tap the domestic market where there is more than enough,” says Namit Agnihotri, Area General Manager, Roseate Hotels & Resorts. He adds that access to the private beach and clean air, water, and environment have enticed Indian visitors, making domestic tourists a hallmark for the resort.

The Glasshouse on the Ganges, a Neemrana hotel, is about 20km ahead of the main Rishikesh. It has seen good business since it revamped and opened in mid-December. “People are driving down from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, and Gurgaon,” says hotel manager Makrand Bhardwaj. “In addition to this, we have people coming from Mumbai and Bangalore because they have direct flights to Dehradun. Fifty percent of the guests have come from metro cities.” They are looking forward to a good season from February onwards.

The hotels also feel that as upmarket domestic tourists can no longer travel overseas, they are willing to spend money in luxury hotels in scenic destinations providing them with brisk business.

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