Mention the UAE, and the names that immediately come to mind are those of the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. However, the Arabian Peninsula state’s third-largest emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah is aggressively competing with places like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bali, Italy, Portugal and even nearby Dubai for a share of what the advisory KPMG estimates as India’s colossal $50 billion wedding industry.
This is evidenced in the numbers shared by the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) with Business Today. A total of 44 Indian weddings took place across various star-category properties located across Ras Al-Khaimah in 2021. Also, 32 such weddings have already taken place in the emirate in the first half of 2022 itself.
“Ras Al-Khaimah, with its natural topography, world-class hospitality brands and seamless infrastructure, is one of the most sought-after destinations perfectly suited for unique weddings and honeymoon escapes,” executive director, destination tourism development & MICE for RAKTDA, Iyad Rasbey excitedly told Business Today recently. “From beach venues at some of the emirate’s world-class hotels and resorts, couples can capitalise on our diverse topography to celebrate the wedding of their dreams.”
Moreover, trends reveal that the emirate’s unique cultural and mountain sites are increasingly being selected by Indian families for hosting such family events. These include the historical Dhayah Fort and Al Jazeera Al Hamra, featuring in UNESCO’s tentative list of Global Heritage Sites, and expansive open spaces atop the region’s highest mountain, Jebel Jais. The sites offering an awe-inspiring romantic backdrop in terms of nature and wildlife have become coveted wedding locations.
“Combined with an extensive hospitality offering and proximity to India, Ras Al Khaimah is perfectly placed to host all types of weddings and celebrations, cementing its reputation as a destination wedding hub,” remarked Rasbey.
A big fat quiet wedding
In the spring of 2022, the Hilton group’s landmark 346-room Waldorf Astoria property was fully booked for an Indian wedding, with guests being flown in from India.
“When we casually asked the bride as to what made her family select Ras Al-Khaimah, she said that they wanted to have a ‘low key wedding’. If they had organised the same ceremony in India, the guests would have exceeded ten times that number,” a senior executive with the property disclosed chuckling.
RAKTDA recently announced its highest visitor numbers since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, reporting visitor arrival numbers in line with pre-pandemic footfall across the first six months of 2022. The impressive first-half performance saw the emirate welcome 5.21 lakh visitors between January and June 2022, a total increase of more than 21 per cent in comparison to the corresponding period in 2021.
India, meanwhile, remains in the top-five source market for Ras Al-Khaimah.
“Conveniently located 45-minutes (83 km) away from Dubai International Airport, Ras Al-Khaimah is the fastest growing emirate, gaining popularity amongst Indian travellers owing to the destinations’ unique charm that attracts both nature lovers and adventure seekers alike,” informed Rasbey.
Besides, Indian carriers Air India and SpiceJet have been providing direct connections to Ras Al-Khaimah for the past several years. In September, the country’s largest carrier IndiGo launched a direct flight from Mumbai when it made the emirate the 100th destination on its route network.
On being asked about the average cost of organising such a wedding in the emirate, Rasbey said though that depended on a host of factors, the wedding planners and hotels offered a variety of wedding packages to suit different budgets.
“From ultra-luxury to more affordable packages, our stakeholders are ready to make wedding dreams of all shapes, sizes and budgets come true,” he assured.
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