It has taken three years, but romance is officially on the list of target markets for the Cayman Islands, with the aim to increase visitor weddings here by six per cent from this year to next.
At a seminar Tuesday evening on Romance Travel Marketing, Director of Tourism Pilar Bush noted that after the core target markets of family and travel trade, romance has made it into the extender market beyond this, where the dive sector also lies.
‘Romance has made it to the list for the first time,’ she said. ‘It has taken us three years to get the cross section of the private sector to accept the economic potential of destination weddings.’
DoT’s romance travel consultant Rebecca Grinnals noted at the seminar, which took Tuesday evening at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, that the destination wedding industry for US couples has doubled in the past two years and is set to double again in the near future.
The US visitor represents more than 80 per cent of the Cayman Islands stay-over visitor.
DoT aims to increase the number of visitor arrivals from group weddings, both in terms of the number of groups coming to the island and the size of each party, said Ms Bush. Ms Grinnals noted that 88 is currently the average number of guests for a US destination wedding.
Ms Bush explained that the goal for the number of special marriage licences is to increase the number issued in 2006 by six per cent in 2007, and to increase similarly for 2008.
To date for this year 572 have been issued. ‘When the year closes out this is our base,’ she told tourism partners.
Giving the reason why 2006 was chosen as the base year, she said: ‘Even though we started doing work in this market in 2004, when you think about the engagement period and how long it takes people to make a decision, we’re first starting to see the impacts in 2006.’
The goal for air arrivals for 2007 in general is 300,000 and to grow that six per cent to 318,000 for 2008. This year so far there are 174,000 visitors through the end of July and they hope to come close to 240,000 by year end.
‘So getting another 60,000 visitors for 2007 is not an easy feat in itself,’ she said.
Another goal is to double the number of arrivals who visit the Eastern districts by year end in order to spread the economic benefits of tourism out there.
Ms Bush spoke about how the Cayman Islands marketing strategy has just been redeveloped through consultation with the private sector. Situational analysis, research and information gathering took place over May and June. Following three phases of planning the findings were presented to the Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford and, having been given the green light by him, are now being finalised.
The findings include a new updated profile of the typical Cayman Islands’ stay-over guest, announced by Mr. Clifford at the annual tourism conference.
They are frequent travellers to the Caribbean. They are experience seekers. They have a household income of $100,000 or higher (this is 25 per cent of households in the US), when before it was $75,000 or higher. They are college graduates and typically in the age bracket 30 – 64.
For romance, the target market is the same age group, affluent, educated discriminating couples in search of sun, sea, sand locations for their destination wedding, honeymoon or some other romantic getaway.
The Cayman Islands aims to increase the awareness and number of destination weddings being brought by luxury wedding planners. ‘The planner can give us five, six, seven weddings a year,’ said Ms Bush.
A comprehensive online strategy will be developed to draw in brides and public relations will be used to showcase the Cayman Islands as the place of choice for romance seekers.
A fully integrated and evolving internet strategy is planned to increase traffic to www.caymanislands.ky.
DoT will do a media sales blitz at the start of the year, the key engagement period.
With 111 different bridal titles in the US, DoT is also looking to shift advertising from the traditional mix of bridal publications and extending to some of the newer ones.
DoT is to work with Cayman Airways and develop marketing initiatives with them, such as one in the planning stages: for bride and groom to fly free with 20 guests.
Keys to success include ensuring the stakeholders are committed and results oriented and to sustain the current co-operation between public and the private sector.
Ms Bush urged attendees to be ladies and gentlemen when they speak to customers, adding that visitors don’t need to hear negativity about other service providers, about inflation or about the government.
Visitor safety is also of high importance as well as managing the broader image of the Cayman Islands.
A customer service goal set for Dec 31 2008 involves having 50 per cent of visitors or more, who arrive by air, assess the value for money of a Cayman Islands vacation as good or higher on exit survey report. Today only 30 per assess it as that.