By Vishal Gulati
BANGKOK — For Indians, getting married in Thailand is just less taxing. Members of the hospitality industry say Bangkok and its nearby beach resorts and islands have been emerging as the best bet for big, fat weddings. Over 200 Indian marriages are expected to be solemnized this year alone, they said.
With weddings being two to three times cheaper here than in India, the fear of questioning by tax officials in India about the source of funds after an ostentatious wedding is mainly drawing an increasing number of couples to this Southeast Asian nation.
More and more Indian couples are now choosing Phuket, the island resort in Thailand’s southern part, and Pattaya as a perfect wedding destination, said Association of Thai Travel Agents president Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn.
Sisdivachr, who is also the Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association’s honorary president, said hosting of Indian ceremonies has helped in blooming the country’s tourism industry whose six per cent of GDP is contributed by the tourists.
Indian Ambassador to Thailand Anil Wadhwa said besides shooting of films, a new phenomenon has been that Indians have chosen Thailand as a favourite wedding destination.
“The value of this (wedding) business alone is estimated to be around 30-40 billion baht (Rs.60 billion-Rs.80 billion) a year with an annual growth of approximately 15-20 percent,” Wadhwa told a visiting IANS correspondent.
“Our estimate is around 300 Indian weddings plus seminars and company meets would be held in Thailand this year,” he added.
Event management planner Deena Pandey, who works for Bangkok-based Direct Holiday Company Ltd, said couples from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore are opting Thailand destinations for wedding and marriage anniversary celebrations.
“We can arrange everything here for a ‘baraat’ or bridegroom’s ceremony, ranging from hiring a ‘pandit’ to a ‘ghori’ to a fire ceremony (in which the bride and groom walked around a flame) to serving Indian cuisines. We have large convention and exhibition halls that can easily be converted into a wedding venue,” he said.
Pandey says it’s the fear of income tax officials that is driving the Indians to Thailand.
“This is what I have heard from them (Indians),” he said.
Last month, he said, the scion of a leading business group in Mumbai booked more than 40 rooms in Royal Cliff hotel in Pattaya, a two-hour drive from Bangkok, for his daughter’s engagement. A grand function was organised within a short notice of less than a week.
“The family is again coming back to Pattaya in January to solemnise the marriage. We have been told to arrange classical Thai tents for the ceremonies on the beach,” he said.
Most of the resorts offer cheap honeymoon packages, which include free chopper and limousine ride and romantic speedboat charters to islands off Phuket to the couple. Even for the families they are offering outing packages like dinner on a boat.
The best time to visit Thailand is November to March.
One can also get the marriage registered in Thailand. It’s legal only when registered officially. For this, the visiting couple has to give a declaration that they are free to get married.
This declaration must be certified by their embassy in Bangkok. Then the Thai foreign ministry issues a marriage certificate.
To make it hassle-free, one can consult a wedding planner, who can charge between 5,000 and 10,000 baht.
Currently, the air traffic between India and Thailand is over 156 flights per week.
Bangkok is currently connected by air to 10 Indian destinations. A flight from Mumbai to Bangkok takes not more than four hours.
Eyeing India’s blooming leisure and business travel market, no-frills carrier SpiceJet launched two flights simultaneously Oct 27 from Bangalore and Pune to the Suvarnabhumi International Airport here.
“If the flights are economically and commercially viable, we can increase their frequency,” said SpiceJet senior vice president (Commercial) V. Raja.
Wadhwa said the lure of Thailand is catching up, as over 1.15 million Indian tourists came to the country in 2012. “Around 88,000 Thai visitors travelled to India, mainly to Buddhist pilgrimage sites”.
* Bangkok is connected by air to 10 Indian destinations, including the four mini metros.
*A room in a five-star hotel in Bangkok costs between 3,500 baht and 4,000 baht.
*A buffet in a posh Bangkok hotel or restaurant around costs 800 baht.
* A dinner buffet Baiyoke Sky Hotel’s 78th floor restaurant in Bangkok costs
850 baht or Rs.1,689.
* A two-hour boat ride in Bangkok and dinner on board costs around 1,400