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Travel agency snaps up burgeoning overseas wedding business

By Zhu Wenqian | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-16 07:48
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A Chinese couple poses during a pre-wedding photoshoot in front of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, Aug 28, 2015. [Photo/VCG]

Online company taps growing demand for exotic marriage, photo shoot destinations

More young Chinese couples are looking to hold unique weddings and have stylish customized wedding photos taken at overseas resorts. The business of overseas weddings and photo shoots has since taken off, and more travel agencies have plans to expand such operations.

Last year, Tuniu Corp, an online travel agency based in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, arranged overseas wedding photo shoots for 4,000 newly married couples. In the first quarter of this year, the company arranged wedding shoots for 1,500 couples in overseas destinations, a 50 percent year-on-year increase.

"Before, young Chinese couples used to have their wedding pictures taken at indoor photography studios. Two to three years ago, the number of people getting photos taken at overseas scenic sites started to rise. This is being driven by a growing number of consumers who would like to pursue premium experiences," said Yu Dunde, CEO of Tuniu.

"In the second half of 2016, we launched our overseas wedding photo shoot business and started to diversify our services. There is a significant growth potential in the sector, as it is closely connected to traveling, and it can help to drive the booking of flights and hotels, despite the fact that the repurchase rate is low," he said.

Yu added that for many travel agencies in Japan, overseas wedding photo shoots account for about 30 percent of their business operations, which is much higher than travel agencies in China, as they have seen continuing growing demand from the Japanese market.

So far, Tuniu, the Nasdaq-listed platform that has the largest share in the online leisure and holiday market, has established studios for wedding shoots in a number of countries and regions.

Currently, it has studios in several islands in the Maldives, Bali in Indonesia, Negeri Sabah in Malaysia, and Sanya in Hainan province. Its studios in Phuket, Thailand, Saipan, Japan and Paris, France are under construction.

Besides, it also cooperates with suppliers from around the world. With the support of its suppliers, the company now provides wedding photo services in more than 200 destinations, including Mauritius and Greece.

"Those destinations are popular among young couples for taking wedding and honeymoon photos, and they have seen robust demand. We can also utilize our overseas travel resources to provide better services for photo shoots," said Jack Geng, head of Tuniu's photography business.

"Most photographers are our staff members, and we also cooperate with some independent photographers. The team will help with photos and videos, design and provide other tourism services," he said.

"We would like to invite more fashion photographers to carry out transboundary pieces to better combine the concepts of travel and fashion. We are trying to create stylish visual effects for tourists, and enable everyone to become stars during their trips," he said.

Geng added that Tuniu will strictly control the quality of services provided by its suppliers, and when the quality is not good enough, the company will propose requirements for improvements, and it might also cancel the cooperation.

On average, it costs about 10,000 yuan ($1,563) for a set of wedding photos in the Maldives, 8,000 yuan in Bali and 4,000 yuan in Sanya, according to Tuniu.

Usually, it takes a whole day to shoot the wedding photos, and customers are able to get the final photos in two to three months.

"First, couples usually need to carry out research on Tuniu's website, and they can also consult customer services about the style of photos they want, and then book the trips and place orders," Geng said.

Besides having wedding photos taken overseas, more young Chinese couples are choosing to hold their wedding ceremonies at exquisite overseas destinations.

On the website of Ctrip, China's biggest online travel agency, overseas weddings have become one of the hottest search categories. During the first quarter, Ctrip received a large number of bookings for overseas weddings, a 200 percent year-on-year increase. From April to May, the number of bookings has already doubled compared with that of the first quarter.

"More than 70 percent of the customers who book overseas weddings are born after 1990, and most of them are office workers. They want unique weddings and are abandoning traditional customs," said Zhang Hao, director of Ctrip's themed tour platform.

"Besides, some young couples come from different cities. To make it fair, both parties have agreed to hold their wedding abroad, instead of in China," Zhang said.

Among the bookings, tropical islands top the list, with more than half of those making bookings choosing tropical islands. Bali is the favorite, with its large number of luxury hotels suitable for weddings.

In addition, the Maldives, Fiji and Tahiti offer some more expensive packages; for instance, a couple can rent a whole island for their guests, and those higher-end products are also well-received, Ctrip said.

Meanwhile, other couples prefer to hold their weddings at interesting destinations such as churches or castles in Europe, manor houses in New Zealand and Greece, and temples in Nepal or they opt for northern lights weddings in Finland or Japanese-style weddings in Japan.

In fact, many of the overseas weddings cost about 20,000 yuan to 30,000 yuan, which is much lower than holding a traditional wedding banquet in China.

"The threshold for overseas weddings has dropped. It is cheaper to hold a group wedding, and some young couples who have just started working and have limited income choose this option to save costs," Zhang said.

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