South Asian destination weddings, one of today’s fastest-growing and most lucrative travel segments, are drawing increasing interest from resort hotels and travel advisors alike. But while the rewards are great, experts say the knowledge required is as complex as the intricacies of the weddings themselves.
Destination wedding specialist Jennifer Doncsecz, owner of VIP Vacations in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, learned just how steep the learning curve is when handling her first South Asian destination wedding over a decade ago.
“Explaining what we needed to the resort in Mexico was very difficult and tedious. When we said that we needed a special bowl for the fire ceremony they kept saying they don’t do bonfires on the beach,” she said. “Destination weddings are already complex, but South Asian weddings have even more complexity than most.”
Why are South Asian destination weddings garnering more attention these days? The rapid growth of Indian communities in North America (the Indian immigrant population in the U.S. increased by over 70 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census figures) is part of the answer.
At the same time, Indian immigrants tend to be an especially lucrative clientele, according to both Varghese and Doncsecz.
“They are well-educated and affluent — many are doctors, Ph.Ds and engineers,” Doncsecz said. “They’re well-traveled and have not been scared off, as many others have, by the Zika virus in the Caribbean or the travel safety warnings about Mexico.”
Varghese, whose clientele is about 40 percent South Asian, agreed, adding that “they do a lot of research and know what they want. They’re willing to spend money on the right experience.”
In particular, destination weddings have strong appeal to South Asians because of the considerable cost savings they bring over a traditional wedding, which typically lasts for multiple days and can cost up to $1 million, Varghese said.
“Indian weddings tend to be huge. My brother had over 800 guests at his and my wedding, which was the smallest anyone had ever been to, had 400,” he said. “By contrast, a South Asian destination wedding averages around 150 to 200 guests, so it typically costs much less.”
Because South Asian destination weddings tend to involve a longer stay and draw considerably more guests than other destinations weddings, they are an especially lucrative specialty for travel advisors, said Doncsecz. While only comprising 10 percent of her overall destination wedding business, South Asian weddings bring in over 30 percent of the revenue.