From left: Hyatt Regency Hua Hin, JW Marriott in Phuket, Shangri-La in Chiang Mai
Agents bank on dependable partners to organise celebrations abroad
Outbound agents and tour operators are aiming for a slice of the Indian destination weddings market, working closely with reputable hotels and suppliers to make matrimonial dreams a happy reality.
Starlite DMC, an outbound events company based in New Delhi, recently organised awedding party of 170 guests, flying them in to the Alila Hua Hin in Thailand.
According to Starlite DMC director Anshuman Mitra, the total bill for the five-day stay and celebration was Rs25.4 million (US$600,000).
“The reason for choosing a reputable hotel chain is the assurance of service levels,” Mitra said. “We had the owner and the general manager of the property and all staff present till 4 a.m., when the fireworks were on.”
Thailand is fast emerging as a popular choice for Indian destination weddings. Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, director, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), New Delhi said: “Weddings are our speciality because Thailand has everything for the once-in-a-lifetime, amazing experience.”
Pinky Arora, direct representation officer of TAT New Delhi, explained: “Thailand hosts about 150 Indian weddings annually, with an average stay of three nights. The popular destinations are Bangkok, Hua Hin, Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui and Chiang Mai.
“Familiarity with the country and the shorthaul flights, coupled with good hotels that understand the Indian guests’ requirements, make Thailand the ideal wedding destination.”
Arora added that among the more popular hotels were the JW Marriott in Phuket, Sheraton and Grand Hyatt in Hua Hin, Shangri-La in Bangkok and the Shangri-La in Chiang Mai, which recently hosted a wedding for 700 guests from Chennai in Tamil Nadu.
Jatinder Gupta, partner of Amritsar-based Dove Travels, recently organised a wedding at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort in Pattaya and the Four Seasons Hotel in Koh Samui, with about 80 guests for four nights each.
He was also satisfied with the result. “Suppliers based in Bangkok arranged the construction of the mandap (the floral canopy under which the wedding rites are performed), mehendi (henna) artists, an elephant for the groom and priests from the Arya Samaj, all in Thailand,” he said.
Destination wedding bookings from India are usually done through outbound travel agents and tour operators who have a proven track record.
Working with ground handling agents in the countries overseas, the agents arrange a venue check with a few members of the family.
Food and beverage – possibly the most important aspect of the event – is carefully planned with chefs who are well-known for Indian cuisine.
If necessary, the chefs are flown in from India prior to the wedding group’s arrival to arrange the logistics with the inbound agent and local suppliers.
All flight bookings and venue confirmation are made at least eight to 12 months in advance. The ease of cash payment at most properties overseas is also an added incentive to take weddings abroad.
Sometimes, the budget for these destination weddings even includes celebrities. “The minimum spend on a Bollywood celebrity appearance at a wedding overseas is Rs2 million and can go up to Rs50 million,” said Vijay Bokadia, managing director of Moksh Events, with offices in Mumbai and Kolkata, which organises weddings overseas and coordinates celebrity appearances for these weddings.
“Last year, an Indian wedding of a family from Rajasthan held in Bangkok had (pop singer) Shakira and (Indian composer) A.R. Rahman making appearances and belting out a few songs. The sum involved is anybody’s guess.”
Major travel companies in India, like Thomas Cook, Mercury Travels, Cox & Kings, SOTC and Kuoni, to name a few, have all organised Indian weddings abroad. Popular destinations aside from Thailand include Langkawi, Macau, Singapore, Bali, Dubai, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Versailles, Cannes, Venice and Cape Town.
“Istanbul is slowly appearing on the Indian wedding map because of excellent hotels on the Bosphorus and its romantic setting,” Bokadia said, adding that lavish Indian weddings may not be the only thing that the trade can look forward to organising overseas.
“Other celebrations like the 25th wedding anniversary, 50th birthday, 25-year college alumni reunion, children’s college graduation – these are also being taken to overseas destinations,” he said. “The enhancement in social status is a big motivator, while sometimes the cost of organising a wedding in Goa may be more expensive than doing so in Thailand.”
This article was first published in TTG India, October/November issue, on page 16. To read more, please click here to subscribe.