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Mon 2 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Wedding costs rise but demand remains strong

Properties around the Middle East agree that the cost of catering weddings is rising in line with inflation, but continued demand means that banqueting and events departments are still turning a tidy profit.

Properties around the Middle East agree that the cost of catering weddings is rising in line with inflation, but continued demand means that banqueting and events departments are still turning a tidy profit.

Inflation and rocketing food costs are causing the price of the average wedding package to soar, according to hotels in the UAE and around the Middle East.

"The cost of living is spiraling in Dubai. Food, electricity and fuel cost more, so it is only natural that weddings will be costlier than before," said general manager at the Coral Beach Resort, Sharjah, Jean Simon.

People will never stop getting married. - Ricky Tursunov

"Weddings, like any other sector, are affected by the inflation that is happening world wide," agreed Crowne Plaza Dubai's director of conventions Ricky Tursunov.

In Egypt, the Semiramis Intercon-tinental Cairo had seen an increase in the price of wedding packages of approximately 10-15% per year, according to executive banquet sales manager Hany Khorzaty.

The hotel currently charged around US $6500 for a "small" wedding of 100 guests, and the increase in price was due to "the rapidly rising cost of raw material prices", Khorzaty added.

"These higher expenses and costs are allocated to the end client, and this is an issue for guests, as clients in this region are often very price sensitive," said Al Murooj Rotana Dubai's conference and banqueting director Johanna Horn.

"Higher costs will always be an issue with guests," events manager, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, Irina Beutler agreed, but added that, "for weddings, most of the time, the focus is on the grandeur of the wedding and not the costs."

Indeed, the rising prices of wedding packages had not done much to negatively impact demand from couples seeking to tie the knot.

In Dubai, the Al Murooj Rotana hosts around 50 receptions a year, making weddings "an important part of the total banqueting revenue" for the property, especially as "weddings in this region tend to have more than 200 guests", Horn pointed out.

The Semiramis InterContinental Cairo, meanwhile, hosts around 250 ceremonies a year, said Khorzaty.

"Wedding business has an essential effect on the food, beverage and even rooms revenue. It can encourage overall business in low season, and external crises do not affect wedding business."

The social and religious significance of marriage made it a reliable revenue stream for hotels in the region, agreed Crowne Plaza Dubai's Tursunov.

"People will never stop getting married and are willing to do anything to make that day a memorable occasion."

As long as wedding packages were carefully costed-out to ensure that added-value for guests did not outweigh profitability for the property, hotels would still be able to reap the benefits of offering wedding services despite rising costs, said Al Murooj Rotana's food and beverage manager Dominique Jossi.

"If the services you provide are to the satisfaction of your guests, weddings are a great - and cheap - marketing tool for the hotel."

RELATED LINKS:The cost of true love, Marrying for money

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