The wedding segment remains an important peg of the larger tourism bouquet. A handful of cities, most notably Jaipur, have admirably developed a niche for themselves, attracting large numbers of destination weddings. Radisson Blu Agra has recently unveiled a new luxury wing, aimed at attracting ‘big fat Indian weddings’. The city’s success, however, in gaining a foothold in the segment will depend on whether hotels are able to create more engagements for the discerning guest, reasoned Paritosh Ladhani, Executive Director, Radisson Blu Agra. He shared his thoughts on what will it take for Agra to succeed as a wedding destination.
It is an established fact that Jaipur, by far, is the most popular wedding destination, at least in the north Indian market. A combination of factors – diverse tourism offerings, shopping, monuments, comparatively developed infrastructure, being the capital of a state – has worked for the city in carving this niche.
Agra, on the other hand, is a story of a missed opportunity. The city has not been able to attract the wedding segment in numbers worthy of its status, despite its proximity to the national capital. Paritosh Ladhani however exuded confidence in the opportunity, calling Agra a “great wedding market”. “The monument of love – The Taj Mahal – is in Agra,” he asserted.
He suggested that hotels needed to create more engagements within the premises to make Agra a 2-night wedding destination. “We met a lot of segment stakeholders and understood what works. We have created several venues within the hotel which allows a change of setting for guests,” he explained. He asserted that the hotel was ideally positioned to cater to the ‘big fat Indian wedding’ and offered a rather expansive banquet hall named ‘Mansion’ with a total area of 27,000 sq. ft., including a pillarless hall, he shared. “We also have 7-8 live counters and an open kitchen. It is a new concept in north India. The idea is to drive traffic in to the city which is currently heading to places like Jaipur,” he said, adding that Radisson Blu also featured an infinity pool facing the Taj Mahal. The hotel has recently unveiled a brand new luxury wing which is spread across three floors.
The road ahead
Agra’s proximity to the national capital has proved to be bane rather than a boon for the Mughal city. Drivable distance and fantastic road network to the capital has kept air connectivity out of bounds. A handful of carriers plied on the Agra route for some time before terminating operations owing to low load factor. “Airlines got very little business and therefore shut down their operations. The only way to make it work is to incentivize airlines,” he suggested. He also revealed that the erstwhile state government in 2015 had identified land for a civil terminal at the military airport in the city, but the project had not moved since.
In the absence of a supportive environment, the hotel industry needed to create opportunities for itself, he suggested. Making a mention of The Oberoi Amarvilas, he noted that the hotel’s positioning in India, and in the world over, had given the industry a lot of hope in the city. “Jaypee Palace, too, has done a fantastic job in bringing in MICE traffic in to the city. Our intention is to not only get Indian companies but international companies to come to Agra for MICE. It is a great destination to come with family,” he added.
Although, he remains fairly confident of the times ahead, he keeps his expectations realistic. “Honestly speaking, I do not see a drastic improvement happening in the infrastructure of the city,” he said. He noted that while the government had taken several steps in the past, he did not expect Agra catapulting to the level of Jaipur or Varanasi. “Agra must get air-connectivity with cities like Mumbai and Hyderabad to boost tourism numbers”, he said, pointing out that Gorakhpur and Varanasi were connected to major cities through flights and were reaping benefits of air-connectivity. “Varanasi has seen such a positive marketing; being PM’s constituency also helps,” he concluded.