The Wedding of MiCE and Cruises

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That the cruise market in India holds huge potential is a well-acknowledged fact, but, what cruises now need to do is tap the Meetings Incentives Conferences Events (MiCE)

The Singapore Tourism Board’s Cruise Forum hosted a panel discussion with market leaders in the cruise and MiCE segment to delve deeper into this subject. The panel discussion ‘Cruises: A New Venue for Weddings, Celebrations and MiCE’, moderated by SanJeet, MD, DDP Group, included panelists: Nikhil Thakurdas, Director, CruiseBay; Pradeep Saboo, Chairman and MD, Guideline Travels; Ratna Chadda, Co-Founder and Chairperson, TIRUN Travel Marketing; India Representative, Royal Caribbean Cruises; Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO, Jalesh Cruises and Rajeev Jain, Founder and Director, Rashi Entertainment.

Sharing insights on the MiCE market, SanJeet, MD, DDP Group, said, “According to the latest Govt of India report, the MiCE industry is worth US$5,213,300,000 (`37,000 crore). The Indian wedding industry is pegged at US$ 50 billion dollars, and is growing at an exemplary rate of 25-30 per cent per annum. About 49 per cent of the Indian weddings that go abroad spend, US$ 50 million, while 15 per cent spend over US$ 50 million. India currently generates more than 2 million outbound MiCE tourists, and the Indian MiCE industry is set to triple in the next few years. We are all looking to sell experiences to our clients, especially the wedding and MiCE crowd. Are cruises the answer to this? This is what we seek to find out from our panelists.”

Cruises, an ideal choice for weddings?
Rajeev Jain said, “Indians spend the maximum for two things, one when a wedding is happening and the other when a house is being made. We have been doing weddings for the last 15 years in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Goa. In the last five years we have organised weddings at Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Ras al Khaimah and of course Thailand. Weddings are all about luxury, the clients are here to spend money. People are willing to spend on weddings on cruises, but the liners need to be well-equipped. In fact, arrangements for all ceremonies can be made on the ship, only hitch is that animals are not allowed onboard. Larger than life experiences can be created on a ship.”

Is this a growing market domestically?
Talking about trends in the market, Jurgen Bailom said, “Perhaps we are the first domestic cruise business for Indians, which we are really proud of. We welcomed 50,000 guests in six months. Weddings are a very special market; they are not easy to host on a ship. All of us, the main players here, made a promise that we will create 4 million passengers in the next 8-10 years. We have the opportunity to be the second or third largest cruise market in the world. We have a coastline of 7,600 km. We are one of the largest countries, and the key to that is we make sure that we keep the ship in our region –Singapore, Asia and the Middle East – this will automatically make the market grow. One of our plans is that either we, or the Royal Caribbean, in a very short-term will have a ship, specifically for weddings with some hardware changes.

The requests coming in for weddings are huge, in the last two-three months we have had more than 80 such requests. In terms of MiCE we usually have corporates having their reward functions onboard with a little bit of bleisure.”

Where will the business come in from; MiCE or Weddings?
Ratna Chadda, said, “We should not be in any other business, as facilitators, we try to facilitate everything for the client. 3/4th of the world is filled with water and if they don’t use the ocean as a destination then what are they doing? Through cruises one can visit many novel destinations. I think there is a huge potential and we need to embrace MiCE and weddings. Only drawback is that India is a very expensive destination today because of our taxes. Today, there is no dearth of money and people can even go for full buy-outs for weddings on cruises.”

Pradeep Saboo added, “The biggest advantage of a cruise ship for MiCE is that you can wine, dine and party under one roof, also you are able to visit multiple destinations. 400/600/800 cabins, all can stay under one roof. We can organise conferences with 1000 PAX under one roof. For MiCE, cruise ships can offer a one-point solution. All the big groups are seriously considering a cruise MiCE event. Wedding on the waters offers multiple destinations as well. Cruises offer super value for money and are easy to organise.” Rajeev Jain added, “The scale is huge, the wedding budgets can range from `4 crore to `20 crore for the Indian market. It’s a recession-proof market to work on, it’s a performance-oriented market to work upon. It’s a creative market to work upon. While you may be negotiating rates for corporates, for larger-than-life wedding experiences, money is not an issue. The number of guests for weddings generally range between 400 and 650. If there is even one wheelchair-bound individual, the wedding does not go out of the country, but the same segment can be tapped for cruise.”

Have cruises managed to tap tier-2 and tier-3 cities?
Nikhil Thakurdas adds, “There is a huge market as far as taking celebrations to cruise ships is concerned. Today people are celebrating their 20th birthday, 40th Birthday, 25th wedding anniversary. Sometimes when it’s multi-generation, there is no better place than to be onboard a cruise Different generations of the same family can go for celebratory holidays.

Where cruising from Tier-2 to Tier-3 cities is concerned, flight connectivitiy can sometimes be a problem. But now, thanks to some LCCs, Tier-2 cities are getting connected to the closest cruise hubs: Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai.”