Turkey is firmly proceeding on its path to grab a larger share of the $50 billion Indian wedding market as more and more Indian couples chose to tie the knot in Turkish resort towns. The country has this year for the first time managed to host around 20 lavish Indian weddings, up from the 13 held last year. "This is a first. These weddings have broken a record in Turkey's history," says Bünyat Özpak, the managing partner of Inventum Global, one of Turkey's leading meeting, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) operators for Hindu weddings. It is the Mediterranean holiday resort Antalya that grabs the greatest slice of these weddings as far as Turkey is concerned. Accustomed to hosting millions of tourists each year, the town has, particularly in recent years, become a hot spot for the colorful Indian weddings.
Weddings that usually last for nearly three days and three nights with the participation of thousands of people generally brought to the resort city on private jets make a significant contribution to the city's tourism, especially during the low season.
What's more, the government as well as the private sector are accelerating their efforts to attract a greater number of Indian weddings to Turkey.
So far, 2019 has been a very promising year in terms of Indian weddings, says Özpak, pointing to the increasing interest of Indians in Turkey.
Noting that India is a large market, Özpak suggests that Antalya is the most preferred destination in Turkey for weddings, followed by another famous resort town Bodrum, and Cappadocia, one of the country's top tourist destinations.
Özpak points out that Antalya's low season falls between November and March and that the wedding owners prefer these dates due to the cool weather, stressing that Indian weddings offer a pleasant opportunity for Turkey.
Thanks to their promotional activities in recent years, adds Özpak, they have managed to put a "Turkey file" on the table of each family that has wedding plans.
He underlines that weddings are essential for spreading tourism activities throughout the whole year. "For the first time in the country, we organized around 20 Indian weddings. We had a total of 13 weddings last year. There was a significant increase," he continued. "Excluding this year, the number of weddings organized in our country so far did not even total 20. It is pleasing to have a record this year."
Indians usually prefer countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore for weddings abroad, according to Özpak. "If we promote ourselves well, we will be talking about 300, 500 or even 1,000 weddings, not just 20 or 30. We are getting a small share of the wedding cake right now."
Close to 10,000 weddings are being held outside India, he says. "The cake is huge. The turnover of Indian weddings is huge. Budgets are very high. Some families spend from $500,000 to 5 million euros, 70 million euros and even 100,000 million euros. There is no limit. Turkey's tourism infrastructure is quite robust. We need to get a bigger share from Indian weddings," Özpak stresses.
India, one of the two countries in the world with a population of more than 1 billion, ranks second in group events after the U.S. and first in wedding tourism.
Turkey has made serious progress in the last two years with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to India and the efforts of local tourism companies.
Yet, the visa application process between India and Turkey is seen as the biggest obstacle.
Özpak says visas are the first criterion for the country selection in such weddings or different group organizations. "Indian wedding spots such as Thailand and Dubai do not have visa requirements. There are even those who give 20 to 50-euro incentives per person on top to boost Indian weddings. When India is given flexibility, more and larger weddings can be held in a short time," Özpak concludes.
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