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Mon 2 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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The cost of true love

Weddings are big business across the region and most hotels know that nuptials are about more than just romance.

Weddings are big business in the UAE and throughout the region and with wedding packages for 100 guests priced at anything from US $2450 at the Al Diar Siji Hotel in Fujairah to $6806 at the Shangri-La Dubai, most hotels know that nuptials are about more than just romance.

Across the emirates, the wedding industry is one of the fastest growing areas within the thriving leisure and tourism industry. The market for UAE national weddings remains stable, but demand from expatriates living in the country is soaring.

"Most of the weddings organised here are for Dubai residents. Accessibility plays an important role as most people like to organise their weddings in a location that is easily accessible for their families and friends and Dubai does have this advantage," says the events manager at Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, Irina Beutler.

While traditionally expatriate couples returned to their home country to tie the knot, today's expat community is younger and less transient than in years gone by and this fact, combined with the abundance of idyllic wedding venues that are now available, is driving Dubai's popularity as a wedding hotspot.

"One of the reasons for Dubai's popularity is the beautiful weather during most months of the year, plus the availability of various venues providing five-star service and all the necessary facilities," confirms Al Murooj Rotana Dubai's food and beverage manager, Dominique Jossi.

Weddings are certainly a reliable area of business for most properties - the Al Bustan Rotana Dubai, for example, says more than 50% of its conference and banqueting revenue is generated by weddings - and despite the fact that many regional hotels agree that the prices of wedding packages are increasing due to inflation and rising food costs, this does not appear to be slowing demand from couples for big, extravagant ceremonies.

"The rising costs of weddings is not an issue for guests as they wish to be provided with tailor-made services on their special day," says The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa's senior catering and wedding manager, Rowena Manalang.

"Nowadays, guests are focusing on quality and higher standards - they are more educated," she adds.

With brides apparently willing to pay whatever it takes to ensure their big day goes without a hitch, it seems Middle East hotels will be able to rely on this lucrative revenue stream for a long time to come. Sarah Gain is the editor of Caterer Middle East.

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