Celebrating a lifetime of love and commitment, the ever-blossoming weddings and honeymoons segment has been enjoying steady growth in the MENA region. Natalie Hami reports.
Cherished moments, a magical wedding day and the ultimate bliss of a long-awaited honeymoon are all being entrusted into the hands of another, to ensure that every detail goes exactly to plan.
Globally-speaking, the weddings and honeymoons segment has always held its own, however, in recent years, this industry has particularly begun to take shape in the MENA region.
Senior vice president, operations and development – Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International, Laurent A. Voivenel exclusively told TTG: “The weddings and honeymoons industry is massive in the Middle East and is a growing business segment for us. The demand can be attributed to the demographics of the region, with more than 28 per cent of the population in the Middle East being under 29.”
He noted that with seven new hotels opening this year, Swiss-Belhotel International’s existing portfolio will be further enhanced with diverse event venues.
Meanwhile, there is burgeoning interest in the ever-evolving weddings and honeymoons segment in destinations such as Oman, with stakeholders keen to meet couples’ demands.
According to director of sales and marketing, Al Nahda Hotels and Resorts, Amit Garg, Oman is witnessing an increased interest from the weddings segment. As such, he explained: “Dunes by Al Nahda and Al Nahda Resort & Spa caters to select and exclusive wedding planners look¬ing for unique desert or green settings, with one-of-a-kind experiences.”
Garg highlighted that the group also invites event managers and wedding planners to showcase the properties and their many charming attributes.
A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES
With contemporary brides and grooms eager to plan out every last detail of their special day, the property or venue of their choosing must be at the ready to coordinate and guarantee an unforgettable event for family and friends.
The team at the five-star luxury Kempinski Summerland Hotel and Resort Beirut starts by inviting the bride and groom to the property in order to take them through their journey. The hotel’s, director of sales and marketing, Nadia Madi explained: “When the couple book their wedding, they receive special benefits, starting with a tasting meeting with the chefs to design a special menu for the wedding day. On their big day, they benefit from a welcome reception and wedding cake, a day-use room and special one-night accommodation in the Resort Suite, with complimentary breakfast for two persons and special in-room honeymoon amenities. One year later, they will also benefit from one-night’s accommodation for their wedding anniversary.”
Director of sales and marketing, Mövenpick Hotel Beirut, Cynthia Flouty reiterated to TTG the importance of understanding a bride and groom’s vision for the event and any issues they may have, as well as catering to the number of guests and their age range.
“[Following this], along with our culinary team, we customise the menus, food display and presentation, and then coordinate with the other team members to have the event completed,” Flouty said.
Similarly, the team at Fairmont The Palm, Dubai, is at the ready to explore unusual and extraordinary ideas, according to its director of catering and conference services, Marion Marxer.
“The team believes that each wedding is unique and deserves nothing less than personalised attention – all factors, ideas and requests are accommodated too, if available.”
Marxer added: “From the moment the bride and groom arrive, the events team will anticipate and incorporate the couple’s style, personality and ideas, to create complete and customised celebration packages catered to their every wish.”
Couples choosing Fairmont The Palm, Dubai have a choice of three wedding packages: ‘The Queen’s Package’, ‘The Princess’ Package’ and ‘The Duchess package’, which include personalised and bespoke wedding celebrations, unique amenities in one of the hotel’s well-appointed suites, spa treatments, romantic dinners and special benefits reserved for newlyweds.
Indeed, personalisation and tailor-made touches on the big day have become essential to the modern couple, and as such, this ever-developing industry must follow suit to meet these demands.
General manager, Oryx Rotana Doha, Ghassan Dalal told TTG: “Couples today are finding increasingly creative ways to personalise their wedding day. We always try to accommodate all that clients are looking for while booking their wedding or their stay with us. We consistently apply our professional expertise to guide them on the best options available and make their night and stay memorable.”
Moving beyond a bride and groom’s wedding day, Dalal noted that a couple’s honeymoon should be ‘an experience of a lifetime’. In line with this, the property has introduced a Romantic Getaway package for 2019. According to Dalal, the experience consists of a ‘honeymooner set-up’ complete with chocolate-dipped strawberries and cake, as well as full minibar access. Other exclusive features include in-room dining, a cosy lunch at Al Nafourah Garden, a chic dinner at The Cellar, a one-hour couples’ massage at Bodylines Fitness and Wellness Club and much more.
Skilfully blending heritage and luxury, a spokesperson of the five-star Al Bait Sharjah, told TTG: “Al Bait caters to everyone who values art, culture and traditions of the region and to those who are interested in unique experiences.
“Al Bait is a resort like no other and we always strive to provide the best experience and service to our guests. Therefore, we cater to all their requests in the best way possible. Whether it is a henna night, a pre-wedding stay to prepare for the big day or a post-wedding honeymoon, Al Bait is suitable for it all.”
Keen to mould their offering to a bride and groom’s demands, the spokesperson explained that the team at Al Bait maximises the property’s potential and set-up by offering its guests unique options, including the aforementioned luxury henna experience, movie screenings, cooking classes, candle-lit dinners under the stars, an exclusive spa experience for two, and more.
In partnership with some of the best experience providers in the region, the hotel’s guests can book a private helicopter ride, abra boat rides along Sharjah’s unique spots or a desert experience with dinner under the stars and stargazing.
With the weddings and honeymoons industry in full bloom, newlyweds have begun to raise the bar on their expectations, thus becoming a driving force behind certain key trends.
Voivenel explained that wedding culture is being influenced by millennials who seek more low-key and intimate receptions. “These require a far more creative approach, which is being reflected in the bridal ceremonies and celebrations. There is a real focus on the guest experience, and our aim at Swiss-Belhotel International is to build on those.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, cluster general manager, Ramada Hotel and Suites by Wyndham Ajman, Ramada Beach Hotel Ajman and Wyndham Garden Ajman Corniche, Iftikhar Hamdani revealed to TTG that the hotel chain is always on the lookout for the latest trends. “Younger couples are now looking for all-inclusive retreats, and thus, we are looking at incorporating that in our future packages,” he said.
But not only this; couples are on the lookout for more adventure, according to general manager, Mövenpick Resort and Residences Aqaba and Movenpick Resort and Spa Tala Bay Aqaba, Dan Benzaquen, who highlighted that Jordan is an ideal choice for this particular type of bride and groom.
“The Kingdom is rich with tourism products catering to vast types of travellers who are looking for adventure and an adrenaline rush on land and underwater in Aqaba or Wadi Rum, as well as those who prefer a cultural experience in Petra, wellness in the Dead Sea or religious tourism at the Baptism site and Mount Nebo.”
Creative and eager to please, the MENA region is skilfully cultivating its weddings and honeymoons industry.