Ultra luxury hotels in India’s main wedding destinations, including Jaipur, Jodhpur and Mussoorie, are seeing tremendous demand for hosting “diverted destination” weddings — many postponed from last year — of the uber rich which cannot be held abroad due to current travel restrictions.
The biggest hospitality players including Taj, Oberoi, ITC, Leela, Marriott and Accor have a major presence in these destinations here, with many having prime properties in these destinations.
A Taj Hotels spokesperson said: “Wedding queries going forward for the next set of auspicious dates and season remains healthy and weddings that would have typically gone to destinations overseas are all converting to domestic weddings in the destinations mentioned above. The big fat Indian wedding may have got slimmer but is now more Indian than ever!”
The general manager of one of India’s best known destination wedding hotels quipped: “In 2013 hit Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (YJHD), Ranbir Kapoor came to Udaipur’s dreamy Udaivilas to attend a friend’s destination wedding. Now the buzz among us hoteliers which Indian property will host the Kapoor wedding if international travel restrictions remain in place.”
Hospitality majors — among the worst hit by the pandemic — are now getting lots of inquiries and bookings for “diverted destination” weddings which they are hosting by strictly adhering to all pandemic-time norms of size of gathering, social distancing and enhanced hygiene.
Accor Group says due to the pandemic “60% weddings have been pushed back to 2021-2022, which were supposed to happen last year.”
Leading hoteliers say a YJHD-style wedding in luxury properties is usually a 2-3 day affair with sangeet, mehndi, haldi and finally the main wedding function. The entire cost — including accommodation, meals and drinks for all guests, entertainment and the events — is Rs 1-1.5 crore in luxury hotels, they say.
Comments were sought from the key destination wedding hotels.
A Taj Hotels spokesperson said: “The wedding segment has been growing for the last few months… There is an increasing trend of small intimate weddings at our palaces in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Hyderabad. Other destinations like Rishikesh, Corbett, Coorg and Goa are also now very popular choices for destination weddings. Urban locations are also doing well like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and this segment is definitely seeing a stronger revival.”
Fairmont Jaipur GM Rajiv Kapoor said: “In October-December 2020 and January-March 2021, we hosted some cancelled weddings, which were to happen last year. The luxury wedding segment particularly is witnessing a gradual growth post the ease of restrictions…. Most hotels are… requesting guests to be flexible on banquets venues so that a hotel can host two weddings at the same time successfully without compromising on the experiences.”
Weddings are now getting more personalised and authentic traditional ceremonies are back. Size of each wedding gathering is now between 50 to 200. Due to reduced gathering, people hosting weddings are now also sending packed hampers and food deliveries to friends who digitally attend the ceremonies.
“While most hotels have already matched their 2019 pricing for January-March (2021) weddings, April-September 2021 are already selling 10-15% higher compared to same time 2019. October-December 2021 is at least 20% higher than Jan-March 2021 as currently it is estimated that there could potentially be no limitations on guests at that time,” Fairmont’s Kapoor added.
Due to high taxes in India, in pre-pandemic times high net worth individuals (HNIs) had destination weddings abroad in Phuket, Bangkok, Turkey, Middle East at almost same price or even lower than India. Now this entire wedding market, which includes those who postponed plans for last year, is leading to sold out bookings for important and auspicious dates this year in April, May, June, November and December,” said a hotelier.