National

Japan to promote Okinawa to Indians as outbound wedding destination

by Atul Ranjan

Nna/kyodo

Japan is looking to promote Okinawa Prefecture in India as a wedding tourism destination as one of its initiatives to woo Indian tourists to the country.

Setting its sights on India’s outbound wedding market, mainly driven by wealthy individuals in the country, the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is organizing a seminar to showcase Okinawa as a destination to local wedding planners.

“We are planning to invite around 30 to 40 wedding planners from Delhi on July 6,” said Kenichi Takano, executive director of the Delhi office of the organization. “A team from Okinawa will be there to showcase Okinawa to the wedding planners.”

Representatives from Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Okinawa-based hotels and resorts will be among those making presentations during the conference, according to JNTO.

Recently, some Indian wedding planners traveled to Okinawa to explore the island prefecture’s potential to cater to India’s lucrative outbound wedding market.

“Okinawa could be a dream destination for Indian weddings,” said Yogesh Khantwal, one of the wedding planners who visited the island prefecture in March this year.

“Indian clients who choose to go as far as Europe for weddings could also explore this ‘exotic’ location,” said Khantwal.

According to a report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, India’s wedding tourism market, in which bride and groom, as well as guests, travel to their dream location, is slated to grow to 450 billion rupees ($6.5 billion) by 2020 from 230 billion rupees in 2017 on the back of a rise in the middle class and growth in disposable income, among other factors.

“This market is being driven mainly by wealthy Indians,” said Runeep Sangha, executive director of the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s India Chapter.

IIFL Wealth Management Ltd., which defines the wealthy in India as anyone with at least 65 million rupees, or roughly $1 million, revealed last year that India is home to 284,140 wealthy individuals with a combined fortune of 95 trillion rupees, a figure that is estimated to grow to 188 trillion rupees by 2021.

According to Khantwal, such individuals planning weddings outside India, especially in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, normally spend 25 million to 40 million rupees. “The budget can even go up to 100 million rupees,” Khantwal said.

In a bid to boost bilateral tourism, the first Indo-Japan Tourism Council meeting was held in 2016 seeking to expand the number of tourists traveling between the two countries to 700,000 by 2020 from the current level of around 370,000.

To achieve the target, Japan is not only promoting its tourist destinations in India but is also focusing on increasing connectivity, with Japanese airlines recently announcing new direct flights between Narita airport near Tokyo and the southern Indian cities of Bengaluru and Chennai, making them the third and fourth Indian destinations with nonstop service to Japan, in addition to Delhi and Mumbai.

“Tourism must be encouraged,” Kenji Hiramatsu, Japan’s ambassador to India, said during a seminar organized recently by the Indian federation.

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