Today’s Editorial March 22: Event tourism marketing

The recent airings of ‘Weddings away – Cayman Islands’ on The Travel Channel has brought this country into the spotlight as a premier destination wedding location.

One might not think the relatively low number of people who get married here on an annual basis can make a big impact on the economy.

But according to Conde Nast Bridal Group’s 2006 American Wedding Study, couples spend more than US$25,000 on average for a destination wedding.

Most of that money is spent at the destination, and in addition these weddings often attract visiting guests who will also spend money. In fact, local event planners Celebrations is currently working on a destination wedding that involves 125 visitors to the Cayman Islands.

Destination weddings can also help spread the word about the Cayman Islands as a vacation spot in general. Not only are the wedded couple and their guests in some cases introduced to the island, but they will go home and show photos and videos of Cayman’s beauty to their friends while telling them all about their experience.

Event tourism, whether it is destination wedding, sports/adventure, business/convention, health or another niche, is increasingly being recognized as a key element of national tourism marketing strategies, primarily because more people are travelling to places to do things they traditionally might have done at home.

Statistics show that 16 per cent of U.S. couples are choosing destination weddings – a 400 per cent increase over the last 10 years.

Event tourism is something that the Cayman Islands Government has also recognised as an important way of attracting people to the Cayman Islands, beyond just destination weddings.

There have been government-sponsored attempts at attracting food tourism and concert festival tourism in recent years.

Cayman has been a dive tourism hot spot for decades, and the annual Flowers Sea Swim attracts hundreds of visitors every year.

With some of the best open water swimming conditions in the world right off Seven Mile Beach, Cayman should try to attract more sea swims here, with government backing.

For decades, Cayman’s bread and butter tourist was the return visitor. However, for a number of reasons, the numbers of return visitors have been dropping. It is therefore critical to stay-over tourism that new people are attracted here.

Any individual event tourism segment is not big enough to support the entire industry, but if you add all the visitors from many different kinds of events, Cayman could find all of its hotels full again.

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