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UAE top destination for weddings in Middle East

Thanks to luxurious and palatial hotels across the UAE, the country is the top destination for weddings in the Middle East with people spending on celebrations as high as Dh11 million in the region for each wedding, reveals a new study.

The Middle East accounts for 5 per cent of the global destination wedding industry, which is valued at Dh330 billion, with the UAE ranking among the top destinations for couples in Asia, Africa and the Middle East to further cement its position as a hotspot for destination weddings, revealed the survey conducted by Dubai-based event organiser QnA International.

Director Sidh N.C. said it’s encouraging to see the UAE make further progress in establishing itself as a hotspot for destination weddings. “We believe that tapping into the massive potential of wedding tourism can help the country move closer towards achieving the ambitious tourism goals laid out in its UAE Vision 2021 initiative.”

Romika Fazeli, founder and managing director of Emirates World Club, says venues are pretty important for occasions like weddings and other such celebration. And it’s not a secret that UAE houses best hotels and resorts in the world in terms of best quality and service.

“If you are planning your wedding, the most important factors are to have a beautiful venue with the best kind of hospitality services to make this special occasion unforgettable for yourself and for your guests. In the UAE’s hotels and resorts, you have a 100 per cent guarantee that you will enjoy the excellent quality in food, service, set up and entertainment. In my personal opinion, the most beautiful resorts as for weddings are One&Only Royal Mirage, Al Qasr, Mina Salam and Emirates Palace,” Fazeli said.

According to Atlantis, The Palm, the number of weddings increased 30 per cent in 2017 compared to previous year with couples from India, the UAE, the UK and Pakistan making up the majority – 86 per cent – of weddings delivered in 2017.

Industry estimates showed that an average lower and upper middle class family spends in the range of Dh700,000 to up to Dh7 million. The figures could vary, depending on the nationality and their wealth status.

For high net worth families, the costs for weddings go as high as Dh25 million in the UAE for Indian and Emiratis families. While the turnout in the UAE is between 300 to 400 for Asian and Emirati weddings and 100 to 150 for the Westerns’ weddings. The other factor, according to Fazeli, is that UAE is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. “When you invite your guests, you can be sure that they will combine this wonderful occasion with a great vacation for themselves.”

Binu Varghese, director of sales and marketing at Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai, said the UAE is among the Middle East’s top destination for weddings with Dubai taking the biggest share.

“The weddings market in Dubai is definitely very strong and continues to register steady growth not just among locals but also among expats. We have seen a significant growth in the number of wedding parties at our hotel since the opening of this new ballroom in 2016. Moving forward, we have got high expectations in terms of business which reflects the growing demand in the market.”

The average cost of weddings in the region is significantly higher ranging between Dh1.5 million and Dh11 million as compared to average African wedding costing between Dh1.1 million and Dh1.83 million.

Destination weddings in Europe and the Americas are typically a small and intimate affair attended by no more than 50-200 guests, the guest list ranges anywhere from 300 to 1,000 for weddings organised in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

“There are always exceptions to this and it really depends on the culture and on individual couples. There are people who want an extravagant wedding and it is evident from the decoration, number of guests, menus and entertainment. While there are many others who prefer a simple reception with their family and close friends,” Varghese added.

Apart from Dubai, Florence and Tuscany are very popular and leading destinations for international weddings with 19 per cent and 42 per cent accounting for the global wedding market share.

Gold prices inch up, 22k priced at Dh148 in Dubai

Gold prices edged higher on Friday as concerns over a global trade war increased after the United States imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,299.51 per ounce by 0110 GMT.

22k gold in Dubai is priced at Dh148.25 and buyers can buy 24k for Dh157.57.

US gold futures for June delivery were down 0.1 percent at $1,298.60 per ounce. Canada and Mexico retaliated against the US decision on Thursday to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and the European Union had its own reprisals ready to go.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday played down the chances of a quick deal in getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear arms as a delegation from Pyongyang headed to meet him with a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, suggesting a proposed summit may be back on.

Italy’s anti-establishment parties revived coalition plans on Thursday, ending three months of political turmoil by announcing a government that promises to increase spending, challenge EU fiscal rules and crack down on immigration.

US consumer spending posted its biggest gain in five months in April, a further sign that economic growth was regaining momentum early in the second quarter, while inflation continued to rise steadily.

Euro zone inflation jumped far more than expected in May on higher energy costs, offering relief to the European Central Bank after market turbulence that has jeopardised its planned exit from a lavish stimulus programme.

Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust , the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell 0.52 percent to 847.03 tonnes on Thursday.

Sales of American Eagle gold coins in May increased by 433 percent from April, and were the highest May sales since 2015, US data showed on Thursday.

Russia produced 15.67 tonnes of gold in January, up from 14.16 tonnes in the same period in 2017, the finance ministry said on Thursday.


It’s time to upsize your home in Dubai

Living in a townhouse or villa is the ultimate dream for many expat families in Dubai. With rents falling in the mid to upper segment of the Dubai residential market over the past year, tenants who were living in two or three-bedroom apartments can now afford townhouses or villas for the same rental value.

Another trend playing out is tenants who were earlier living in well-established communities are now moving to emerging communities away from the city centre. A prime location is being compromised for newly built units, cheaper rents, larger living spaces and an increased number of cheques and other incentives. The affordability can be attributed to a number of developments that were handed over in 2016 and 2017.

“There is a high proportion that are currently looking to upsize their accommodation. Properties that people previously looked at and had on their wish list are now available for similar rents to what they are currently paying. There are a couple of choices that people have, reduce the rent where they are and free up some more disposable income or keep their finances the same but move to a property that is going to give them a better quality of life. This is evident across both the villa and apartment market,” observes Lewis Allsopp, CEO of Allsopp & Allsopp, a Dubai real estate brokerage.

“It’s widely recognised that rental values have softened over the last 12 to 18 months. With homes becoming more affordable, we have found an increase in the number of tenants who are moving to areas and homes previously out of their budget,” says Nick Grassick, managing director, PH Real Estate.

However, tenants upgrading from smaller apartment units are mostly opting for bigger apartments or townhouses, not so much villas as yet.

“Most people look in their neighbourhood if they are wanting to increase the size of their current tenanted unit. However, there are some who are looking at a premium location of the same size at new prices,” reckons Sanjay Chimnani, managing director, Raine & Horne.

“The area that we are seeing an overwhelming number of upsizing is in Green Community DIP. Currently, you can get a 5-bedroom, 5,900 square feet BUA, independent villa for Dh170,000 per year. The community itself is fantastic with lots of parks, pools, sports facilities, a lake, a shopping centre and the Marriott hotel,” informs Allsopp.

The improvement in social mobility is happening across the board, from traditional expat areas such as Dubai Marina and Downtown through to more affordable fringe communities.

“Subject to the areas you compare, tenants are now able to find townhouses for cheaper rents than some apartments. With rents becoming more affordable, families now have a greater choice of communities within which those homes are located,” mentions Grassick.

Certain townhouse communities are very well-priced on the rental market in Dubai. For instance, Meera and Nshama have townhouses for rent now at Dh110,000 to Dh130,000. “These are great value for money, especially for a young family,” says Chimnani.

Families opt for townhouses and villas because they offer a different lifestyle. For a lot of families, it offers the opportunity to get a property with a nice garden, private pool and children’s play areas with a community feel.

Although homes have generally become more affordable, with the majority of families taking advantage of this, there are specific cases where individual circumstances restrict the options available.

“There are also people that are downsizing at the moment. For some, this will be because of employment challenges and people understandably wanting to take on smaller commitments financially. For others, it will be because their family size is reducing, with kids moving out of the family home and the parents not needing as big a place anymore. It is a mixed market at the moment and there is obviously no right or wrong thing to do, it is just what suits your circumstances when you are looking,” clarifies Allsopp.

“Since prices have gotten better, most tenants have been able to negotiate better rents and more cheques. This is a big help if someone is going through an uncertain period,” Chimnani concludes.

No fines on Dubai companies as government relaxes renewal terms

In a major relief to businesses in Dubai, the government has decided to exempt companies from all fines and they can benefit from this decision and renew their licences by the end of 2018.

Sami Al Qamzi, director-general, Department of Economic Development in Dubai, urged all business owners to benefit from the decision, which exempts companies and establishments operating in Dubai from all the fines imposed on them, and facilitate the procedures for renewing licenses by the end of 2018.

“This will add to the financial benefits of the owners of expired business licenses, restore legal records and licenses, and help the business community in Dubai enhance their competitiveness,” he said.

The business community in Dubai hailed the decision as it will bring back small businesses who were out of the business due to different fines. It will stimulate economic activity and also increase competitiveness of the emirate.

Suresh Kumar, president, the Indian Business and Professional Council, welcomed the move, saying the recent measures such as 100 per cent foreign ownership, 10-year visas, waiving of VAT on gold and jewellery and conference and exhibitions sectors, all these are in the same direction of improving cost of doing business and making the emirate more competitive.

“First of all, Dubai is ahead of all the GCC cities and it needs to stay competitive in cost of doing business and ease of doing business. Dubai Executive Council, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and various other government entities study these measures and outcome of research reports. The announcement of exemption of fines is part of that strategy,” he said.

“More importantly, certain licences which were renewed not on time or for non-compliance issues, the exemption of fines shows that government wants to ensure that these businesses come back into the fold and restart the activity,” he added. Ahmed Shaikhani, president, Pakistan Business Council, Dubai, said this decision by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to exempt fines is a step in the right direction and it will increase business activity in the emirate.

“Economic activity in Dubai will improve. All those companies which were not functioning and couldn’t renew their licences due to fines, will now come back into fold and generate more economic activity in the emirate,” Shaikhani said.

He pointed out that Pakistani and other Asian expatriates are largely involved in small businesses so even normal fines sometimes are big enough for them that they can’t operate in an efficient manner.

“Because the small businesses can’t repay fines, their visas go into pending and then there will be labour issues too; so all these are chain of a business. But once the fines are waived, these small businesses will be able operate in a smooth and efficient manner, generating more revenues for the government and fresh jobs in the emirate,” he added.

According to Dubai Statistics Centre, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) account for 95 per cent of the total enterprise population in Dubai and employ around 42 per cent Dubai’s workforce. SMEs contribute around 40 per cent to Dubai’s GDP. While micro firms account for 72 per cent of total business count in Dubai.

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