Wedding market is still a winner

Despite the unstable US economic climate, destination weddings are still popular in the Caribbean, tourism parties were told at a romance update on Friday.

One of a series of tourism workshops held for Cayman Islands Tourism Association members at the Westin Casuarina Resort, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism Romance Consultant Rebecca Grinnals gave some highlights and key learning’s from the highly successful Engage ’09 Wedding Symposium held on Grand Cayman in June.

‘The one good thing is that in this economic situation that we’ve had in the past year or so, weddings have continued to spend money though some things have certainly changed.

‘Weddings are one of the parts of the business that have not suffered nearly as much as some of the others,’ said Mrs Grinnals.

And while brides and grooms are not cancelling weddings, they are scaling back on some excessive luxuries.

While there has been a huge decline in weddings in competitive destination Hawaii by around 16 per cent, with the brides and grooms going other places, frugal brides and grooms are still walking down the Caribbean aisle, Mrs Grinnals said.

‘The good news is that we have not seen a huge decrease in the Caribbean that many of the other destinations have seen.’

Destination Weddings & Honeymoons Magazine released a report in May that the destination wedding market will grow to $16 billion this year from $13 billion in 2008, continuing a boom that has seen the market increase from just $3 billion in 2001.

Despite the recession, destination wedding budgets are on the rise while regular wedding budgets have gone down.

Increased Budget

The average destination budget has risen by four per cent since a survey done in 2006.

‘They [destination weddings] were $19,800 on average in 2006 and they have gone to $20,600 in 2009.’ Mrs Grinnals explained that this relates to wedding day expenditure and does not include travel expenses.

The average budget for a traditional wedding has fallen by seven per cent to $20,398 this year because of the recession.

Mrs Grinnals explained that the Caribbean accounts for just over half of international destination weddings for the US (51 per cent) followed by Mexico with 21 per cent. Florida is top US destination, followed by Hawaii, which fell from the top spot.

Traditional weddings average $124 a guest while destination weddings triple that average at more than $400 per guest.

The average number of guests travelling to attend a destination wedding is 48.

Mrs Grinnals explained the thinking behind having a smaller destination wedding.

‘People are erasing guests off their lists. At one point they may have had 250 guests on their list but they scaled back to 35 or 48 or 71 or whatever it may be and are deciding to go and have a much more meaningful and real experience [through a destination wedding] as opposed to spreading it out on a Saturday night in New Jersey,’ said Mrs Grinnals.

The average that each destination wedding guest spends to attend a destination wedding is $1605, excluding airfare, attendees heard.

Destination wedding couples also tend to spend more on their honeymoon. The average total honeymoon cost for destination couples is $8,200 versus $6,124 for traditional wedding couples.

Romance Objectives

Mrs Grinnals outlined Cayman’s romance objectives, which are: To position Cayman as the Caribbean destination for discriminating couples looking for island weddings of style and distinction;

To increase number of non-resident weddings, focusing on the more lucrative ‘stay-over’ visitors;

To encourage group weddings of all sizes and to maximise the length of stay of guests in attendance.

Another benefit of weddings is that they spread their economic benefits island-wide beyond the resorts and weddings planners: to videographers, spas, florists, tour companies and watersports operators, to name a few.

Increased Visitors

Another plus of destination weddings is that the majority of guests at these weddings are incremental visitors. ‘Not all of them planned to vacation in Cayman. They are coming to be here with the bride and groom and they get exposed to the island, fall in love with it and we have the opportunity to convert them into repeat visitors,’ said Mrs. Grinnals.

She outlined lots of wedding coverage the Cayman Islands has received over the past year, such as in USA Weekend magazine which has a circulation of 45 million.

She also spoke about the power of using blogs, online video and posting photographs as marketing tools.

She referred to a wedding video at Grand Old House posted by a videographer on his Facebook page and the type of effect such a simple thing could have on brides. The resulting posting ended up on wedding blog site saying, ‘I stumbled across this video when doing some research for my own upcoming wedding in May 2010. (We got engaged in Cayman so it was only fitting that we get married there also!). Coincidentally the Grand Old House was where we had our engagement dinner, and it was a top contender for our wedding venue. After watching this video, I think my decision has been made. . .’

The Department of Tourism’s new romance website will be officially launched within the next month. It aims to showcase what the Cayman Islands has to offer in terms of weddings and wedding vendors.

This will be a benchmark site for the Caribbean, Mrs Grinnals said, as no destination has such a romance website as robust and dedicated as this.

Speaking about the outcome of the Engage ’09 wedding conference, she said the top names in the wedding industry are shouting from the rooftops the fact that they love the Cayman Islands and what it has to offer.

‘The good news is that we have not seen a huge decrease in the Caribbean that many of the other destinations have seen.’ – Rebecca Grinnals, Department of Tourism’s Romance Consultant.

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