October 4th, 2012
09:49 AM GMT
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) - In a Dubai luxury hotel amid a flurry of golden fabrics and iridescent lights, a young Indian couple ties the knot, with a guest list of cosmopolitan Indian glitterati donning bright gemstones and even brighter saris.
For the father of the groom, having the wedding in Dubai went without question.
“It's a different city. It's a different vibe. And the rich want to do things differently. Everybody can do something in India so let me do something different,” Indian businessman K. Rajaram told CNN’s Schams Elwazer.
Dubai is a huge wedding destination for Indian couples and it’s one of the mainstays of Indian tourism in the United Arab Emirates. Indian tourism to the Emirates has risen more than 12 percent this year to 700,000 visitors.
While many countries view India as one big middle class market, hotels in Dubai have been targeting the high end traveler with a strategy built around the emirate’s iconic landmarks and mega-malls. Dubai has overtaken the UK in the number of Indian tourists that visit.
The appeal to the high end Indian traveler is multi fold - there's been a long historical relationship between the two countries - with 1.75 million expat Indians living there - representing a vast cross section of socio economic strata, from migrant workers to moguls. Everybody knows somebody in Dubai.
There's also a high level of connectivity - with dozens of flights a day back and forth to India - geographical and cultural proximity, and that extra element of glamour.
“This is a destination like no other in the world. Where do you have such a plethora of hotels, entertainment, and beautiful eating places, and what do the rich want? The rest of it they can see anywhere else,” Rajaram said.
And it seems everywhere else is still trying to catch up to the UAE when it comes to targeting the Indian market.
Divia Thani, editor of Conde Nast Traveller India said she thinks up a lot of tourism boards across the world have been looking at India as one big middle class market and now that is beginning to change.
“I think what's happened is that a lot of these groups now recognize that there is this high end Indian traveler who's willing to spend, who's looking for something exciting to do.”
It's the iconic landmarks that fit the bill. The tallest tower in the world, the biggest mall in the world with every brand name imaginable for those will thick wallets - and luxury hotels that specifically market to the Indian traveler, like the Address and Armani hotels in Burj Khalifa. They all have a unique 'wow factor' that appeal to the discerning guest.
For the Atlantis, for example, it's their underwater suites.
Brett Armitage senior vice president for sales, Atlantis Dubai said he is seeing a lot of demand for the hotel’s higher end suites.
“At Atlantis we have what we call the super seven which are the bridge suite, the suite we're sitting in right now, and we see a lot of demand out of the Indian market for these suites in particular. Having a room that looks into the aquarium, that's really the highlight.”
This suite will run a guest $12,000 a night, and the hotel has seen a 12 percent increase in Indian tourism, expecting to fill 30,000 rooms this year.
Tourists find the location of the Emirates convenient for their onward travel.
“All the flights go from Dubai, either to the east or the west. So that way it's very convenient,” said tourist Seema Daga. “It's nice for the family also, we have elders also and kids and everybody's having fun.”
Fellow tourist Sangheeta Bihari agreed. “It's ready nice to see big big places, big big buildings, and the road is really very very huge it's really nice.”
Another important factor is that the Indian aviation industry has been going through a serious crisis. Soaring fuel prices, extremely high taxes and rising operational costs have crippled major airlines like Air India and Kingfisher.
Domestic flights have become extremely expensive. For the traveler this means that visiting Dubai, a nearby international destination, is much more financially viable.
The cultural and geographic ties between the two nations are long standing, and unlike other countries, are no passing fad.
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