TAT curries favour with Indian market

Despite the global economic slowdown, tourism from India continues to expand at a strong pace as Thailand remains a popular destination for vacations and weddings.

This article was originally found on Bangkok Post.

The number of Indian visitors grew by 26.7% in the first 10 months this year to 1.63 million, with tourism receipts of 69.7 billion baht, up 31.6% year-on-year.

The wedding segment is seen as quality tourism because of spending. Most Indian couples prefer wedding ceremonies at beach destinations such as Phuket, Krabi, Phangnga and Rayong, said Klissada Ratanapruk, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) executive director for Asean, South Asia and the South Pacific.

Last year, more than 200 Indian couples held weddings in Thailand because of a promotional campaign from TAT offices in Mumbai and New Delhi.

There were also many more wedding ceremonies that were not involved with the TAT, Mr Klissada said.

Average spending for each wedding is 10 million baht.

Low wedding costs and the exemption from visa-on-arrival fees offered to 19 nations including India since November last year are factors attracting visitors from India, Mr Klissada said.

Based on research from the Bank of Thailand, weddings account for 5% of tourists from India, while as many as 85% of Indian arrivals are for vacation, followed by Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) groups.

Chinnarat Chinburi, a committee member of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said arrivals from India are promising, even from the wedding segment, which is relatively small when compared with the leisure and Mice markets.

Hoteliers are shifting their focus to capture this niche segment by offering services that cater to Indian tradition.

Normally Indian weddings are attended by 400-500 guests with five meals a day throughout the ceremony, meaning hotel facilities and staff have to be well prepared, Mr Chinnarat said.

Wedding planners must be trained to be more specialised and able to offer tailor-made products because each city in India has different characteristics and cultural landscapes, he said.

Kuldeep Verma, wedding and catering sales manager at Rayong Marriott Resort and Spa, said the average Indian wedding ceremony lasts for 2-3 nights and average cost ranges from 6,500 to 8,500 baht per person per day.

Most weddings are scheduled for auspicious days during the first and last quarter of each year, as indicated by the Hindu religious calendar, he said.

There are not many auspicious days for Hindu weddings next year, so Mr Verma suggests hoteliers focus instead on Sikh or Punjabi weddings, which are not scheduled on auspicious dates.

Hoteliers may host other events to attract Indian travellers, such as pre- and post-wedding celebrations and Silver Jubilee and Golden Jubilee ceremonies.

Mr Verma said that apart from Thailand, other popular wedding destinations for Indian couples include Bali, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, China, Turkey and Cyprus.

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