The Department of Tourism is aiming for the private tourism sector to have 3,000 weddings a year within the three Cayman Islands by 2009.
The destination wedding market is the only sector of tourism that will bring an average of 88 guests to the destination in one party, 30 per cent of whom are likely to return.
This fact was pointed out by Director of Tourism Pilar Bush when DoT’s 2005 Destinations Weddings marketing strategy and promotions plan was explained to tourism partners at a meeting at the Westin Casuarina Resort Thursday evening.
She said DoT’s mandate is to spread the economic benefits of tourism bigger and wider than every before.
‘If we talk to two people about a wedding they influence 88 guests, with 30 per cent likely to come back,’ she said.
Adding that she was not so confident the Government would be able to allocate as big a budget to DoT next year, she said wedding tourism was perhaps the biggest return on investment they could get.
Ms Bush explained that according to the last figures she had received on weddings, there was an average of 730 per annum in the Cayman Islands.
‘We could realistically aim to get 3,000 weddings per annum over the next five years,’ she said.
However, Ms Bush indicated that in pursuing the market for custom weddings and weddings of distinction (the target market being aimed for) it will be important to pinpoint sufficient sites to ensure that one wedding takes place at a time on each. She emphasised that quality of product and service could not be compromised.
‘By 2009 we’d like to aim for 3,000 weddings over the three islands. There is a lot of room for growth in this market. There are 52 weekends a year with about 10 suitable sites, so the potential is there,’ she said.
However, Ms Bush cautioned the private sector attendees that although DoT was laying the ground work for the research and marketing of Cayman as a wedding destination, it is up to the businesses to act on it.
‘We’ve built the foundation and we need to create the awareness and generate demand, but we are relying on you to manage the guest experience,’ she said.
Wedding expert Rebecca Grinnals of Engaging Concepts, who has been working with DoT on its wedding marketing and plans, outlined the strategy to position the Cayman Islands as the Caribbean Destination for discriminating couples.
She unveiled the latest 2005 survey from US sources as showing that the average number of guests at destination weddings is 88.
The ultimate goal for Cayman, she said, is to own the high-end Caribbean wedding destinations market.
Ms Grinnals gave some statistics to illustrate just how lucrative a market the wedding sector is.
She said that according to US statistics, 92 per cent of couples say they will return to the destination of their wedding.
In the last year 10 per cent of couples had a destination wedding, and it has seen a 200 per cent growth in the past 10 years.
The bride and groom stay an average of eight to 10 nights at the destination; $533 million is spent per year on room nights for destination weddings.
The average cost of a destination wedding is $23,302.
Other statistics indicate that 84 per cent of brides have once dreamed about a destination wedding, while 68 per cent considered it when they first got engaged.
Before they were engaged 70 per cent of brides dreamed about the setting of their wedding and 41 per cent dreamed of it being on the beach.
In choosing where to have their wedding, 30 per cent consider the price as a priority and in the planning of their wedding 59 per cent base it on the reception food.
In speaking about the competition in this market, Ms Grinnals outlined that Hawaii is at the top in popularity for destination weddings and it has doubled its figures for non-resident weddings in the past 10 years, to 16,000.
One interesting statistic given was that back in 1990 there were four wedding co-ordinators in Maui, Hawaii. Now there are nearly 300.
St Lucia owes 36 per cent of its tourism to weddings, while the Bahamas hosts almost 3,000 non-resident weddings a year.
Other important players in the market are Aruba, Bermuda, Jamaica, Barbados, Anguilla and Turks and Caicos.