Weddings are big business for India’s hospitality industry. Wedding tourism is the single biggest growth segment in recent years. Organisations like Marriott have created a special vertical, Shaadi By Marriott, to tap this growing segment. We interview Neeraj Govil and find out how it has evolved.

How has the wedding scene grown overall in 2019? What kind of growth did it record for the hospitality industry, and for Marriott Hotels in particular?

The wedding segment has delivered robust growth numbers across the combined portfolio of our Hotels in India. Take the calendar year of 2019 for example, a year which had lesser auspicious dates than the preceding year; our combined hotels in India saw us play host to an average of 19 weddings/related events every single day! Our India hotels have been growing revenues from this key segment by double digits consistently over the past few years. Marriott International is focused on this segment and piloted the industry first “Shaadi by Marriott’ campaign four years ago. Our efforts and investments in weddings especially around operations, partnerships, advertising and marketing have reaped rich rewards and helped us care a niche for our brands. Besides the financial returns weddings allow a large subset of people to experience the hotel and facilities. There can be no better marketing and if the experience is executed along the brand guidelines you are likely to get phenomenal publicity. Weddings and the rituals, ceremonies and celebrations are deeply ingrained in our way of life and set to stay.

Which are wedding destinations that are showing more growth than others? Like, registering a growth in popularity, and why?

Our customers today are all about experiences, and so are investing in ‘curated weddings’ and choosing specific destinations to celebrate their big day. Our improved infrastructure has opened up air and road connectivity to many new locations and also reinforced demand for existing ones as these can now cater to greater volumes. The preferred locations for personalized, theme-based destination weddings in India continue to be Rajasthan, Goa, Kolkata and Kerala. Our hotels like JW Jaipur, W Goa, Westin Pushkar, JW Mussoorie, Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar, Sheraton Grande Chennai Resort & Spa, Marriott Kochi and many of our large hotels in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune and Indore have seen high double digit growths in 2019. Many of these Hotels offer complete buy outs making it an exclusive getaway for the wedding families. Non Resident Indians tend to go for the better connected gateway cities and prefer the convenience of a hotel to host the weddings. Hotels like St Regis, Renaissance and JW Juhu in Mumbai, JW Aerocity in Delhi, Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott Bangalore, Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott in Pune are much sought after and continue to see a sizeable contribution from weddings to their overall revenues.

To what extent has it taken over the traditional MICE market? Or, in another words, how does it compare today with the regular conferencing business?

The demands and operational nuances of this segment are completely different to the traditional conferencing business The Wedding segment is far more traditional, detailed, experienced focused with a very high degree of personalization. The level of intricate planning and detailing required for this segment from their venue needs to food & beverage and accommodation needs needs a dedicated approach and hence at Marriott we have our Wedding Specialist who are trained and certified to be able to manage these complex expectations. The Wedding segment contribution to the over Group and Catering business in Hotels has seen a steady increase owning to the increasing awareness and novelty the segment brings with each growing generation.

What impact has the Coronavirus had on this business in the last two months, and how does it look like happening in the immediate future?

 The segment is much dependent on auspicious dates. The safety of our guests and associates is our top priority. Since the outbreak of COVID – 19 there have been a number of actions that have been taken to limit the spread of the virus. As these involve travel restrictions, and guests are respecting the need of social distancing and adhering to the guidelines from local health authorities, we are receiving many requests for postponing weddings to a later date. Others who had plans to have their wedding in places like Thailand, Bali and others are moving their weddings closer home. We continue to see wedding leads for dates post September coming to our Hotels at this stage. We are providing all the flexibility our customers need as we deal with the situation that continues to unfold. 

Typically, how is the size and spending showing per wedding? And how does this look from one city to another? 

We have seen intimate weddings of 50 people to as high as 3000 people gatherings between our indoor and outdoor venues offered in our Hotels. Indian weddings continue to be large weddings with a number of pre- wedding celebrations.