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Pandemic, flight ban elevates Goa to top of destination wedding charts | goa news

Panaji: Even as Goa’s tourism industry struggled to survive during the first two waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, another sector closely-associated with tourism thrived during that same period. The pandemic — coupled with the resultant ban on international travel and the inaccessibility of foreign lands — took Goa’s reputation as a wedding destination substantially higher.
The state sees around 200-250 big fat weddings annually, and industry stakeholders expect the next financial year to be highly eventful with a further rise in business. “Even after other foreign locales opening up, I don’t think there will be loss of business anytime soon. We saw a rise of 30% in business during the pandemic, though it wasn’t easy to manage the show with limited manpower,” said Francis Serrao of Crosscraft, one of the biggest players in the field.
Many of those who went to their home states during the lockdown did not return, he said, adding that it was extremely challenging to work within limitations. The only difference between weddings that took place in the intervening period of the first and the second waves and later was the drop in the scale of celebrations. “In the pre-pandemic era, a guest would book 150-200 rooms. The numbers were reduced to about 100 rooms for a wedding, with the elderly mostly skipping the celebrations,” he said.
Goa turned out to be the choicest venue for ultra-rich Indians for their destination wedding, because it is well connected to source markets, as well as an availability of rooms on a larger scale in starred categories. Rajendra Menon, general manager, Zuri White Sands Goa Resort and Casino, said, “There is no doubt that Goa is the top wedding destination of the country. Thanks to connectivity to source markets, it is the preferred destination after the pandemic-led restrictions on international travel,” he said.
He said Goa has been ahead of even Kerala because of the number of starred hotels the state has. “I expect the new financial year to be excellent. We have booked about 30 weddings for the next season,” he said.
The Russia-Ukraine war may induce inflation and airfare may rise, however, Menon said that the destination wedding segment, a niche market, will not be affected.
A majority of the theme and destination weddings take place in South Goa, since the district has a larger inventory of rooms in starred and luxury categories. Director of the Alcon Victor group, Varun Albuquerque, said that starred hotels have done extremely well, with Goa becoming the choicest venue for India’s niche clients who otherwise chose Europe or Southeast Asian destinations.
Planning for destination weddings usually begins one or two years prior, including hotel bookings, Albuquerque said, but in the past one and a half year, they saw people were able to book a month or two before the wedding and have their destination wedding.
However, even though Goa has flourished as a wedding destination, it is feeling the pinch of a lack of adequate infrastructure. “We only have four big ballrooms. We do not have luxury cars that can be hired locally when a client demands. We bring premium cars from outside the state to meet clients’ requirements,” said Serrao.
Plus, for event organizers, the biggest headache is getting permissions every time a wedding is organized. The long-promised single-window system is still a distant dream.

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