Recent airings of ‘Weddings Away – Cayman Islands’ have boosted the Cayman Islands position as a destination wedding and vacation hotspot.
The series, for which three out of six episodes have aired on The Travel Channel, has prompted streams of e-mails to local events planning company Celebrations. The positive feedback relates not only to the business as it is portrayed on the show, but to the Cayman Islands as a destination.
‘Unquestionably this has put the Cayman Islands on the map for destination weddings,’ explained Celebrations owner and master events planner Jo-Anne Brown.
But it has also re-enforced the Cayman Islands’ position as a travel destination.
‘A lot of the e-mails we received are from people who do not even want to plan a wedding, but state how beautiful the island is, and that they will be visiting for their next vacation,’ she said.
‘This is what I really wanted to happen. It’s such an opportunity for the island,’ she said.
‘[Even] if we didn’t ever benefit from this as a business, it’s great for the Cayman Islands that this happened. Nothing but the Cayman Islands was shown on the programme. We’ve all have a lot to be proud of,’ she said.
The Travel Channel reaches 77 million homes in the United States and its target audience is adults aged 25 to 54 years of age, with an affluent viewership.
Celebrations is currently compiling the numbers of e-mails received from viewers of the programme.
The morning after the first show aired on 9 February there were hundreds of e-mails from those who had watched it, the vast majority of which were from overseas.
Since then hundreds more have rolled in. Now Celebrations’ bookings have doubled, although this is something that will not transpire until a year or two down the road as most weddings are booked well in advance.
Currently the company has about 40 staff, but this number will expand once business doubles in a few years.
Speaking about the value of destination weddings to the Cayman Islands, Mrs. Brown gave an example of one wedding she is currently working on that involves 125 visitors to the island.
‘These people are using services all over the island, including accommodations, eating out, visiting the Turtle Farm and other attractions.
‘This is why I always felt that weddings can be so positive for the island. Because it is a wedding, those involved really want to enjoy their time here and will do what they can to make it all the more special.’
Mrs. Brown is quite taken aback about at all the positive feedback pouring forth from overseas. ‘People are asking us to travel all over the world for advice on their weddings,’ she said.
Many of the e-mails state that the professionalism of the Celebrations team, portrayed on the programme, really inspired them to e-mail for more information.
For example, the programme shows bad weather threatening to interfere with nuptials, and how the competent personnel turned this around to make the weddings hugely successful.
‘This offers reassurance for people,’ said Mrs. Brown. Our goal is to exceed expectations.’
The first destination wedding she catered for was back in 1994, but she had been organising weddings for local brides long before that.
Now this niche market is a rapidly growing industry.
According to the Department of Tourism’s wedding consultant Rebecca Grinnals, Conde Nast Bridal Group’s ‘2006 American Wedding Study’ shows some of the latest and greatest statistics on destination weddings.
About 16 per cent of all couples are choosing to have a destination wedding – a 400 per cent increase in the last 10 years. Couples who opt for intimate destination weddings spend an average of $25,806.
In addition, a recent Denver Post article called destination weddings ‘still the hottest bridal trend.’
Mrs. Brown explained that with destination weddings, people go home and tell their friends and families about it and this has a snowball effect.
When initially chosen for the series Mrs. Brown said she was blown away. She explained that originally when the scout came to visit, the business was operating out of a shell following Hurricane Ivan. ‘We had no A.C. All we had was one cooler to keep the flowers cool,’ she commented.
When he called later to say Celebrations had been chosen for the series, and not for the originally planned two episodes, but for the entire six, she said, ‘Are you sure you have the right company?’
Mrs. Brown and her company had been under the spotlight for nine weeks, from September as cameras filmed her every move.
The reality show focuses not only on the special events being staged by Celebrations, but on what life is like here, both for residents and tourists. Coverage was also given to aspects of the culture and community life, such as the Pirates Week celebrations.
The programme had been running on Thursday evenings and the remaining three episodes are yet to air, perhaps in a different time slot. Look out for them soon on the Travel Channel.