By Vishakha Talreja,
It has been a bleak year for hotels, but the big fat Indian wedding industry has emerged as a knight in shining armor helping hotels garner revenues and occupancies in the last quarter of 2020. According to a latest JLL report, weddings helped revive the hotel sector, along with ‘revenge travel’ and demand for F&B, in the October to December period. Hotels have become the preferred venues as the number of guests become limited, elbowing out farmhouse and foreign destination weddings. The new guidelines favor domestic hotels as there is a cap on the number of guests allowed. For instance in Delhi and Mumbai up to 50 guests are permitted to attend a wedding, whereas in Haryana a 200-people gathering is allowed for indoor events. “The capping of guests has made it possible for our hotels to host weddings pan India with 50 to 100 people. With queries pouring in, the wedding industry has helped our hotels immensely,” says Abinash Manghani, CEO, WelcomHeritage Hotels.
October last year is when the hotels started getting queries for weddings and they were quick to adapt to the new normal. Thermal screening for guests, theatre seating to ensure social distancing, housekeeping in PPE kits are some of the basics that hotels ensured. The details that have helped hotels earn confidence of the wedding planners are interesting.
“The mandap set up has been designed in such a way that it provides adequate social distancing. We have tweaked the design elements as per the pandemic protocols keeping the grandeur nature of celebrations intact. We are organizing the virtual tour of the hotel and for all the guest queries, our banquets team is conducting online meetings. We are also offering live kitchen access to the guests,” explains Kush Kapoor, CEO, Roseate Hotels & Resorts.
Accor Hotel’s popular brand Novotel is leveraging technology to rope in guests virtually as well. “We are fuelling our resources with digital innovations and entering into this new segment of virtual weddings to make our guest’s day special in the current times. Guests get to select a host hotel in any city as the wedding venue and then web telecast of the wedding can be accessed by relatives and friends in different cities,” explains Puneet Dhawan, Senior VP Operations, Accor India and South Asia. Novotel has 20 properties in India. The guests attending the virtual wedding based out of cities with a Novotel property will have the same meal delivered at their home which is served at the host hotel.
Goa has emerged as not only a popular domestic destination but also a wedding hotspot as beach destination weddings that witnessed plane-loads of Indians hopping to the islands of Thailand are now settling for Goa as international travel remains closed. Double Tree By Hilton, Panaji recently organized a wedding fair and was quite overwhelmed by the response it got despite the pandemic. “It was great to see so many prospective couples and wedding planners attend the event. We are soon planning the second edition,” said Dacia Godinho, Commercial Director, DoubleTree by Hilton Goa-Panaji.
The JLL report says that wedding ceremonies will play an even more pivotal role in 2021 to help hotels garner revenues.
“All weddings that were cancelled in 2020 have now shifted to 2021 and we are expecting an increase of 40% in wedding bookings,” says Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder & Managing Director, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts. “Even post-COVID it will be about keeping it small, sustainable and special,” he adds.
(The author is a Delhi-based travel, food and lifestyle writer. Views expressed are personal.)