T V SARNGA DHARAN NAMBIAR –
Muscat, Feb 17 –
Aruba in the Caribbean islands — never mind the dreaded hurricane belt looming in the north, or Hawaii or Loire Valley (France)… the call of the exotic lands is irresistible, when it comes to tying the knot, or honeymooning thereafter.
Destination weddings are in vogue. Sure, they raise the pleasure quotient of couples (and guests) to new heights; but may not guarantee enduring marital bliss. It’s all about experience.
Philosophically, wedding is a highly personal affair involving two individuals; but economically, it’s a multi-billion dollar enterprise involving stakeholders such as destination management companies (DMC), tour and travel operators, event management firms and hotels and resorts. Obviously, they join in the excitement of the whole affair, with the couples. According to industry sources, the annual operation cycle of the wedding industry hovers around $300 billion, with a sizeable share of it coming from destination weddings, which form almost one-fourth of the total number of weddings.
Though a late entrant, the Sultanate has set its eyes on a significant slice of this lucrative market, in its quest to boost tourism revenues. It is steadily growing in popularity as the choicest wedding destination, especially among Indians and to some extent Europeans. True, the country doesn’t offer much of a heady nightlife, but this void is more than compensated by the serenity and mystical charm of unspoilt nature at its splendid best, the rich heritage and a well-defined hospitality and tourism infrastructure.
It’s not just weddings; Oman is attracting honeymooners as well. The Ministry of Tourism (MoT) is actively showcasing the country both as an attractive wedding and honeymoon destination in the potential markets of India, Europe and GCC countries.
These are exciting times for stakeholders. Oman’s major DMCs have hosted several groups of wedding planners from these countries in a bid to showcase the virgin beauty of the land and its myriad possibilities, allowing them to inspect major hotels and resorts, and other attractions such as the Royal Opera House, the Grand Mosque, Amouage perfumery, and landscapes. Pre- and post-wedding tours to fabulous locations outside Muscat such as Sharqiyah, Jabel Akhdar, Al Hamra and Salalah offering them enchanting glimpses of deserts, wadis, mountains, and traditional life as defined by historical souqs, ancient settlements and farming have helped boost ‘brand Oman’ in the target markets.
The Ministry of Tourism has been extending strategic support to the tourism industry, in line with the government’s plans to diversify the economy. Wedding and honeymoon tourism, MICE tourism and film tourism are all being vigorously promoted by the ministry in foreign markets.
Compared with Dubai and Abu Dhabi (in the Middle East) and regular hotspots in Asia and Europe, Oman is relatively unknown to the world as a wedding destination. And this “charm of the unexplored” is being used as a deft marketing strategy.
The Sultanate has, over the last few years, had quite a number of destination weddings, a few of them high-profile grandiose events with a guest count exceeding 1,000. Enquiries are pouring in, sources say. Beyond the common attractions, it’s the cultural similarities between Oman and India that makes Oman more appealing to the Indian market, while safety, tranquility, pleasing climate, the thrill of exploring the “unknown”, and an authentic Arabian experience wow the Europeans.
Talking about India, its famed “Big Fat” wedding market is valued at $40 billion a year, and is poised for great growth. It is expected to zoom past the $50 billion wedding market in the US in a couple of years, enabling it to stake claim as the largest wedding market in the world.
Destination wedding industry holds huge potential for Oman, as it generates direct and indirect job opportunities for nationals in segments such as event management, destination management, transportation and logistics etc. Beyond this, guests who come over to Oman to attend the weddings act as its tourism ambassadors. More often than not they come back to Oman for holidaying.
Statistics reveal that the wedding team and guests spend heavily during their course of stay, usually a week or so, significantly adding to the tourism spending here. This is one of the reasons why the ministry of tourism is so keen to promote this lucrative segment in the foreign markets, holding several high impact roadshows and advertising campaigns as well as other focused promotions, in association with its regional representative offices. It has even explored collaboration with popular digital wedding platforms such as weddingsutra.com.