By Suchat Sritama
Featured hotel and travel operators targeting Indian wedding couples. tourism boost Indian wedding belles heading eastThailand bids to tap marriage market
Thai hotel operators are aiming to cash in on India's growing number of overseas weddings, expecting a 10percent boost from the segment this year.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has set a target of 557,000 visitors from India for the year, a 10percent increase over 2007, generating projected revenue of Bt18 billion.
With no worries about political turmoil in Thailand, the most popฌular tourist destinations for Indian visitors continue to be beach resorts. A large number of Indian visitors are entering Thailand overland via Malaysia.
Operators of four and fivestar hotels have found that many Indians want to hold their weddings outside the country and Thailand is becomฌing the most popular destination.
The operators expected the numฌber of Indian wedding couples comฌing to Thailand to grow more than 10 per cent this year, as it is less expensive than European and other destinations in Asia.
Simon Burgess, global director of sales, Dusit International, said the cost of accommodation alone in Thailand is US$200 (Bt6,800) per night, lower than the $400 to $500 per night in India. Each of the wedฌdings usually takes four days and brings together 300 to 1,000 guests with total spending of Bt1 million to Bt5 million per trip.
"This is an opportunity for hotels in Thailand to tap the growth," said Burgess.
He added that Indians had to date been organising wedding parties in only three major destinations - Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. He suggested that operators in other parts of the country should cater to Indian needs, particularly as regards food, to woo more wedding tourists.
Natapong Jantavetsiri, group director of sales and marketing at Centara Hotels and Resorts, said the group is targeting weddings along with young and family travellers.
Krabi province in the South has become a popular place for wedฌdings, helping to spread customers to other regions.
Dheerawat Bhunlapiwat, executive assistant manager for sales and marketing at the Chaophya Park Hotel Bangkok, said the hotel had 38 new business bookings. Most of the customers are for meetings and conferences, as well as family trips and weddings.
The TAT's director at its New Delhi office, Chattan Kunjara na Ayudhya, said India is one of Thailand's most rapidly growing markets and the biggest market in South Asia.
In 2007, Indian visitor arrivals totalled 506,237, up 17.8 per cent over 2006, crossing the halfmillion mark for the first time. The TAT reported a major increase in family travellers, firsttime visitors, as well as individฌual travellers.
In 2000, Indian visitors totalled 203,221, up about 23.7 per cent over 1999. This growing trend continued in 2005 when visitors totalled 352,965, an increase of 17.41 per cent over 2004.
The growth of aviation between India and Thailand and the generalฌly peaceful atmosphere in the Kingdom are major reasons for the overall yearround holiday for Indians. Indians also get a visa on arrival at Thailand's international gateway checkpoints.
Many Indians are also venturing on their first trip abroad, and find Thailand the best place to start their international travels because it fits in well with their budget and time availฌability.
In 2007, firsttime visitors from India were up 33.93 per cent to 250,688 and repeat visitors were up by 5.36 per cent to 255,549.
Male visitors maintained a bigger share of about 76.53 per cent (387,424). Visitors travelling indeฌpendently were up about 12.56 per cent over 2006 and also comprised a much bigger share of 59.82 per cent of the number of Indian visitors. Indian holidaymakers showed growth of 19.34 per cent to 377,399, business travellers grew 12.41 per cent to 64,609 while convention delegates declined slightly by 0.4 per cent to 32,891.
Thailand attracted both upperincome and bluecollar visitors, while the numbers of visitors who identified themselves as housewives and students showed good growth of 26.1 per cent (45,593) and 32.36 per cent (55,597), respectively.
In 2007, Indian visitors recorded an average length of stay of 6.91 days and - with average daily expenditure of $136.17 per person - generated tourism revenue of $476.35 million.