Destination Weddings

A Sustained Business Vertical for Hospitality Industry

Destination wedding, one of the newest trends, has caught the fancy of Indians. According to Wedding Tourism Report by MRSS India, the wedding market in India in 2018 was pegged Rs. 110,000 crore of which around Rs. 23,438 crore can be attributed to destination weddings. The figure is expected to double, at an astounding rate, to Rs. 45,000 crore, by the end of 2020, thriving at 25-30% per year. It is estimated that about 15% of all weddings are now destination weddings. Hospitality industry is a major recipient of this expenditure on destination weddings. Typically a destination wedding is not a one-day affair. While the wedding itself is a one day affair, the couples have to take into consideration for the days that the guests arrive, leave and relax in between. Ashok Malkani takes a look at this new manner of saying “I Do”, the opportunities it offers the hospitality industry and its future.

Marriages are made in Heaven, it is said, but heavenly weddings are created here on earth by having them on picturesque locales. Destination weddings are redefining the Indian wedding scenario. Wedding halls have now become passé. Today, fairy tale settings for making the most memorable moment in the life, one of the most unforgettable and impressive one, is becoming ‘in’. Destination weddings have also given a major shot in the arm to wedding planners, banquet organisers, etc. But hospitality industry can be said to be the biggest beneficiary. 

But why destination weddings popularity has risen and why are hotels and resorts becoming popular? What facilities do they offer? 

Monal Prabhu, Associate Director, Magnifique Meetings, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, says, “In comparison to marriages across the globe, Indian weddings are more ritualistic and thoughtful affairs with a blend of traditions, values and intimate celebrations. To make this occasion extraordinary, one looks for that perfect location where everything can be managed right f r o m the decorations to food and accommodation. 

”Rather than celebrating with a large number of family members and friends in a local reception hall, many brides and grooms are opting to marry farther away f r o m their hometowns. There are many exotic, remote, and breath-taking locales where couples are getting hitched. Due to technological advancements, exploring these breath-taking locations has become an easier task; hence the popularity of destination weddings has increased.
 
”Furthermore, social media has started to play a big role, and due to this people desire extravagant affairs as it offers them the chance to showcase their ceremony and affairs to their loved ones, friends and family as well as the world, thereby creating that sense of competition to be the best. 

“As far as facilities in hotels are concerned, at Sofitel Mumbai BKC, a perfect mélange of French and Indian design inspirations as well as the hotel’s grandeur is reflected in its unrivalled facilities and personalised service f r o m the heart. Be it a traditional ceremony or a themed extravaganza, one can discover bespoke weddings in the midst of romance, elegance and a luxurious setting under the stars, where our dedicated Magnifique Meetings team at Sofitel Mumbai BKC will suggest creative and customised banqueting options, themes, unique settings and international flavours to make the event unique and memorable. 

“f r o m the initial planning stages until the big day, Sofitel Mumbai BKC partners with their guests all the way. f r o m designing and fine detailing, to creating a dream wedding into a magical ceremony, the team at Sofitel Mumbai BKC will make it an event to remember. The Boutique Wedding concept doesn’t just stop at personalised themes but Sofitel Mumbai BKC takes care of it all. f r o m commending the best decorators and wedding planners in town, hair and make-up maestros, wedding photographers as well as Accor International honeymoon packages, the team here at Sofitel Mumbai BKC covers it all.”

Debarchan Bose, Wedding Planner at Grand Hyatt Goa, disclosed, “Destination wedding in recent times has become a trend as couples like to celebrate their special day as an intimate affair. Rather than the traditional obligation of calling everyone you know, it’s in vogue to have a destination wedding with family and friends who matters to you the most. Moreover, personalised service and experiences offered at resorts like Grand Hyatt Goa helps couples/families in choosing a wedding destination. 

“Today’s wedding couples and families are not only looking at service, instead they are looking for experiences. At Grand Hyatt Goa we have a dedicated wedding planning team that makes sure that every request, detail and requirement is adhered to ensure that the special day is made perfect, not only for the bridal couple but also for every member of the family. This dedicated team provides the best in class services in addition to the great facilities available at the resort. Additionally, the resort offers diverse recreational activities that include a sailing centre, adventure park and spa services to ensure that friends and family not only attend the wedding but have fun within the wedding venue.” 

Vinay Singh, Director of Sales & Marketing, Renaissance Mumbai & Lakeside Chalet, Mumbai – Marriott Executive Apartments, states, “India is a land of rich cultural diversities and heritage. Indian weddings are about splendor and colour that reflect the mood of the event and add vibrancy to the situation. With the busy lifestyle that people entail in metros and the hectic schedule wherein travel time to various locations succumbs the day, destination weddings allow families to enjoy and spend quality time together. Considering the various ceremonies that comprise of a traditional wedding, hosting them at a single venue allows close ones the exclusivity as well as being the one stop solution for all requirements.

“Majority of couples are opting to incorporate fresh, contemporary and tantalizing elements to their wedding rather than proceeding the traditional way. With exotic wedding destinations that our country has to offer, starting f r o m serene hills, luxurious palaces, to beaches with picturesque backwaters; there is a plethora to select f r o m. Since a wedding is the most essential chapter in one’s life, the drive to enhance, spend lavishly and have the perfect flawless one is the reason couples seek destination weddings. There is immense exclusivity that a destination wedding ensures, along with it being the perfect getaway for an occasion of gaiety and grandeur. 
 
“Most of the hotels today have a sound understanding and in depth knowledge of all that weddings comprise of. Properties are well-versed with the requirements to cater to every type of wedding, including one with an exclusive theme, with extreme care. 

“Our team helps the family through the planning process at every step to ensure their day is exactly the way they envisioned it. Renaissance Mumbai has stunning interiors as well as exteriors, which are perfect for creating beautiful wedding memoirs, and complemented with a wonderful ambiance of being lake side, there is nothing more sought after than the complete ‘wow’ factor for guests that we ensure. The Wedding sector contributes significantly to our overall business. The key levers for this business generation are:

• Convention space of indoor and outdoor venues up to 1,30,000 sq. ft. 

• Increased room bookings on account of weddings

• Opportunity to showcase the property for continuity of business

• Innovative themes to enhance weddings

• Our vast inventory of 773 rooms

“Whatever be the nature of the wedding, be it an intimate affair with 100 guests to weddings for over 5,000 guests, Renaissance Mumbai offers the most indigenous experience to all, customizing pertaining to our guests needs which leaves a lasting impression on our guests.”

Girish Krishnan, Hotel Manager, Four Points by Sheraton Mahabalipuram Resort & Convention Center, declares, “Some of the important reasons why Destination Weddings are getting popular are;

1. Destinations’ provide a different feel and experience to the wedding and they are undoubtedly more enjoyable than a regular city banquet or a lawn wedding

2. It’s an opportunity for family and friends to travel to different locations and use it as another good reason to exploring the place along with the wedding commitments

3. At times, these destination weddings are cheaper too. 

“Hotels, these days, are providing end-to-end solutions to the guests, making it a one-stop shop. Food is one of the most important part of the wedding and we at, Marriott can provide regional cuisine f r o m all over the globe due to our presence in every state. We also fly in chefs f r o m different locations to provide the authentic flavours. 

“The business is witnessing a good growth percentage. Many couples are now opting for a destination wedding with the comfort of good hotel rooms to rest and good food, in order to get ready for their D-Day in a hassle-free manner.”

Increasing Demand

The general consensus among the hoteliers seems to be that people are preferring destination weddings to those in a hall. So how has the business grown over the last decade and what is the percentage revenue earned by hotels f r o m this segment of business? 

 Debarchan declares, “The wedding industry has grown significantly. This is mainly due to the fact that besides the parents, the social savvy bride and groom, with their intricate and innovative ideas are also immensely involved in the preparations of the event.
 
“The percentage of revenue earned by the property depends on the inventory of the place. Grand Hyatt Goa, with its sheer Ballroom, is one of its kind in Goa when it comes to convention/banqueting facilities. Our resort is a close knit one which, while giving one the resort look, is also compact and generally becomes preferred choice for Indians (as we still have a significant section of senior citizens) due to its trim and compact look. Weddings contribute to more than 30% of the revenue for us.”  

Monal believes that destination weddings have shown a tremendous growth over the last decade and will continue to grow manifestly. She claims that normally 20% of the revenue earned by the hotel/resort is received through weddings and 5%-8% would be through NRI weddings.

Vinay declares, “Weddings continue to be the most bankable segment in India for the hospitality industry. Renaissance Mumbai has been associated with some high profile weddings & has had the honour of executing dream weddings for more than 1000 families in the past decade as has seen a growth of over two fold in weddings.
  
“Being an integral source of finance for the catering and sales business for any property, weddings contribute immensely to the overall budget of a hotel. While a scenic location generates revenue of around 20%, on an average city hotels earn revenue of approximately 5-8%. At Renaissance Mumbai destination weddings contribute an average of 5-6% to our overall revenue, while overall weddings at our property contribute around 22% to our overall revenue. The percentage varies f r o m city hotels to resort hotels.”

Girish avers, “The percentage of revenue earned f r o m destination weddings by any hotel majorly depends on the location and the facilities offered. On average, 30% of our revenue, at Four Points by Sheraton Mahabalipuram Resort & Convention Center, comes f r o m destination weddings.

Preferred Locales

International tourism boards are rolling out the red carpet, hotels are extending the best in class hospitality and not only are air fares getting competitive but even charter flights are being offered at reasonable prices. So do people f r o m neighbouring countries also prefer to travel to India for destination weddings? On what basis do the clients prefer the destination and what are the demands made by them?
 
Vinay says, “Yes, there are people who travel f r o m different countries to host destination weddings. While there has been a growth, the potential clientele is when one of the companions is an NRI. The biggest challenge is that people traveling f r o m certain countries are restricted with immigration formalities. Theme weddings also involve huge logistics, coordination and planning which becomes tiresome for the family members.

“There are abundant requirements received f r o m the guests. Over the decades, Renaissance Mumbai has seen over thousands of weddings and being the most important day of one’s life, each of them has expectations of it being top of the notch and unique in every aspect. At Renaissance Mumbai, guests have often demanded opulent décor, exorbitant food & beverage spread, conceptualized themes, music and wedding photography. The most important criteria in venue selection comprises of the packages offered and the inclusions for the same.”

Girish avers, “At Four Points by Sheraton Mahabalipuram Resort & Convention Center we receive requests f r o m NRI’s f r o m different parts of the world. They look forward to travelling to India, especially to their native place. Since Indian weddings are known for their vibrant and colourful décor with a scenic view, there has been a rise in the number of people flying down to India for their special day.

“Guests’ preferences differ f r o m the property’s location to tourism destination, natural attractions like by the beach, forts, hills, going back to their roots, etc.” 

Monal reveals, “Many NRIs prefer travelling to India for destination weddings as there are a lot of options and locations. India has some wedding friendly hotels. Goa and Rajasthan are preferred wedding destinations, but newer destinations like Kerala and locales in the Himalayas are also gaining popularity. Mahabalipuram, is also getting popular for weddings, apart f r o m the well-established destinations.

“When a guest plans any wedding, he keeps in mind not only his family but also the demands of his guests, both national and international. First and foremost the guest looks at the ease of commuting, i.e access of direct flights to the locations, as well as the ease of getting a VISA. Cuisine is also an important aspect. These are just a couple of necessities based on which the client selects the destination.”  

Debarchan declares, “Goa has been able to establish itself as an ideal place for destination weddings by national as well as international clients. Grand Hyatt Goa has seen a steep increase in business materialisation f r o m new emerging markets like the Middle East. In fact Monsoon Weddings are becoming increasingly popular. Clients usually prefer a destination based on the location and the facilities that one offers. Grand Hyatt Goa is known for its unique and personalised services. f r o m minute details of room allocations to customizing venues to personalising the experiences, we ensure to give them a complete experience.” 

Booking for Destination Weddings

While destination weddings may seem like an attractive alternative for the young couple planning a successful one is a different story. So do the clients do the bookings of the hotel or do they leave it to agents to do all the requisite arrangements? 

Monal states, “I believe that for large weddings or destination weddings, the guests generally hire a wedding planner to see over the affairs such as conducting a recce of the various locations and destinations with regards to the offerings and best rates on offer.”

Girish is of the opinion that there is balance of both – direct enquiries as well as those f r o m the agents.  
 
Debarchan declares, “Professional Wedding Planners play a significant role in influencing the selection of the property. These wedding planners look at how comfortable the guests would be at a particular venue. At the end of the day we both have the same endeavour – to supersede the guest expectations by complete experience. No marketing campaign is able to influence a decision more than a happy customer who has experienced it.”

Vinay adds, “The industry is dynamic and vast and there is a general belief that they balance each other. However, I am of the opinion that the number of queries that individual properties receive are undoubtedly on a higher side. For Renaissance Mumbai an integral manner of receiving queries is through referrals or the experience that guests have incurred whilst attending a wedding at the property.”   

Future 

Indian millennials are more than eager to splurge in curetted weddings at exotic locales. What can be a better combination than attending a wedding ceremony that double up as a relaxing holiday for the guests as well as for the bride and groom and their families? It is, as they would say in Hindi, ‘Soney pe Suhaga’. But while the destination wedding trend is seeing a flourishing market at present, what is its future?  
 
Monal declares, “This is one market that has shown durability. Irrespective of economic downturns, weddings remain a stable business as it is an once-in-a-lifetime event for most people in India. Destination weddings are getting finer and wedding specialists and hotels are only seeing further growth in this exclusive enterprise. With digitalization, people are exposed to plenty of ideas, resulting in the need for an exotic wedding and an increase in demand. So, the future for destination weddings shall be bright.”  

Debarchan adds, “The future of destination wedding is promising due the fact that one can have personalised and creative experiences. Wedding is one of the most important moments in one’s life and making it exotic and a memorable moment can be achieved through destination wedding. ”

Vinay avers, “The growth and the boost of destination weddings is outgrowing year on year, with customizations and personalisation of weddings, becoming the game changers today. With the technological outreach and development, weddings have a scope of becoming even more dynamic in terms of décor, the offerings, the experiential offered to the guests, the photography etc. India, as a country, is extremely popular for the array of wedding destinations that it has to offer. The hospitality industry, being directly linked with the grandeur of destination weddings, is also expected to grow by 25-30% in terms of revenue and by 9.5% in terms of RevPar in the coming year with more to follow.”
 
Girish opines, “Given the number of celebrity destination weddings happening at present, the major part of the crowd is influenced by them. So, I believe that destination weddings are here to stay and grow further.”

Conclusion

Picture yourself in exotic surroundings, luxurious atmosphere, surrounded by family and friends cheering you on this momentous occasion. It is an experience that one would cherish throughout the life. No wonder destination weddings are growing in popularity. India, with its exotic and glamorous locales is becoming a favoured destination even by NRIs and people of different nations.
 
The hospitality industry in the country is geared to meet the demands of the clients and to make this memorable moment and unforgettable one.  
 

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