By Dilip Chenoy
Wedding tourism – a seemingly new form of tourism is causing a lot of excitement in the Indian tourism and hospitality industry. The booming Indian wedding industry that generates a revenue of Rs 50,000 crore per annum and growing at a CAGR of 25% per year, is looking for ways to tie up with leading hotels and travel agents to woo this growing wedding tourism industry.
India has witnessed considerable growth in Wedding Tourism and destination weddings. Destination weddings have in the past, been more popular in foreign locations. India has many advantages for Wedding Tourism as compared to global destinations. These include competitive pricing, picturesque settings from endless coastlines too, professional wedding planners, a variety of traditional and modern cuisines, tropical weather, opportunity to view world heritage sites, range of destinations and themes to choose from, technology footprint and accessibility, connectivity, and transport facilities.
The shift of preferences from international destinations to domestic destinations is also due to the rising of the middle class and growth in disposable incomes, firm establishment of the nuclear family system, lack of manpower and time for organizing, NRI connect, celebrity endorsements of destination weddings, the emergence of wedding ecosystem players like wedding planners and spruced up wedding infrastructure facilities. The growth in demand has led to a number of palaces, hotels, and resorts in India offering exotic wedding experiences with a high degree of personalization.
Weddings are a unique business segment that provides extensive skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled employment straddling different industries.
The pandemic has deeply impacted the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry. During this time where travel for tourism purposes had come to a standstill, the wedding industry helped to revive the hotel sector that had no other sources of revenue. Weddings are a unique business segment that provides extensive skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled employment straddling different industries.
As one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and the diversity of attractions in the country, India is ideally placed to take advantage of the opportunity that these segments provide to drive significantly higher Foreign Exchange earnings. With the right policies in place, the development of Wedding tourism and destination weddings can significantly contribute to the local economy and employment.
The following are some of the areas where with the right interventions by the Government, will drive exponential growth in this very lucrative business segment:
1.) Simplify and regulate licenses:
NOVEX, PPL, IPRS, Liquor License contribute approximately INR 6 lacs for weddings/events in India and account for a significant part of the overall expense. Such limitations do not exist in International destinations that are popular for Weddings.
2.) Extend flexibility and standardization:
- Relax timing and permissible decibel levels of indoor and outdoor events.
- Flexibility & uniformity in liquor service timings
Currently each state has its own rules and regulations.
3.) Standardize the tax on liquor:
Tax on liquor differs from state to state and is very high at some places (58% on imported liquor in Tamil Nadu).
4.) Identify Standard nationwide list of dry dates:
Any exception considering state-level sensitivity should be identified well in advance (minimum 3 months). A short notice announcement creates disharmony to the entire event experience and impedes the planning process.
5.) Ease of Visa and Travel for international visitors attending Weddings.
6.) Single window clearance for all travel related permissions.
7.) Reduce/rationalize tax to make India an attractive Wedding destination and competitive with popular International destinations.
- India 18% GST (Banquet Event + room tariff over INR 7500)
- Thailand 7% VAT
- Singapore 7% GST
- Bali (Indonesia) 10%
- Mauritius 10%
- Bahrain 5%
8.) Minimize, simplify, and bring about transparency in dealings with local administrative agencies. For example:
a.) Beach usage license in Goa from Panchayats
b.) South Goa – There are no car rental companies. Mandated to be hired through taxi unions.
c.) Wedding/MICE planners are dependent on unregulated service providers in and around popular landmarks in the absence of government regulations.
9.) India has innumerable sites of historical/cultural/aesthetic importance, which can be leveraged to attract weddings. Given the diversity we have, this proposition can make India a unique place to host weddings. Create guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures for hosting events at or near such sites. Given below are few examples of few such international sites.
a.) Celebration (with restricted number of guests) near Eiffel Tower
b.) Wedding at Palace of Versailles, France
c.) Wedding at Angkor Wat temple grounds, Cambodia
d.) Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House in the background
10. Incentives/subsidies based on international best practices to acquire a competitive edge at the bidding stage of International events. A destination like Singapore, Vienna, Thailand offers a host of incentives in the form of different state-driven programs (for example, tax exemption for a part of the expenses incurred during the wedding; refund of tax on shopping done during the course of stay in the country when attending a wedding; welcome desk at airports; flexible travel window for 14 days, etc.).
11. Marketing campaign:
On the lines of the Visit India Campaign/Incredible India Campaign, the government can do an extensive Campaign positioning India as the ideal wedding destination.
12. Potential source markets:
The PIO and NRI markets are a big draw and should be tapped into as they are the markets with the highest potential.
13.) ‘Market Development Assistance’ for wedding planners:
To be effective, a target and focused marketing plan must be put in place. The Ministry of Tourism has a ‘Market Development Assistance’ for accredited Tour Operators and Hoteliers who travel abroad to promote their business. Here, part of the flight charges and the stay is funded by the Government. A similar framework can be looked into for accrediting Wedding Planners and if they can benefit from such type of government assistance.
14.) Focus on domestic market:
The domestic market should be the primary focus as there are many people who are big spenders not just for tourism but for weddings that will bring in revenue and employment.
15.) Formalise the wedding sector:
A large portion of the industry is unorganized and regulating it, will provide a level playing field across the board. Certify artists, vendors, planners, among others as well as for those who have been filing GST for the last three years. This will ensure professional services and a seamless experience for consumers.
16. Skill development:
Staff employed in the tourism and wedding industry need to be properly trained, from the basics of hospitality management at hotels and restaurants, speaking more languages to professional event management at the high end, and serving new markets. Additionally, higher use of technology must be percolated down to the lowest level to enable faster communication and execution support.
17. Develop a working committee as an apex body for wedding tourism:
This could be under the aegis of a leading industry association and shall have representatives from respective departments of State and Central Governments, Travel Industry and Wedding Ecosystem. This will forge better co-ordination amongst stakeholders and ensure swifter decision making.
(Dilip Chenoy is the Secretary General of FICCI.)
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