Wedding tourism is holding its ground so far this year as Cayman continues to be an attractive destination.
Industry professionals said that the first five months had been comparable to the same period in 2010 in both the stayover and cruise market.
Melissa Ladley of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman said it was hard to attribute growth in the wedding market to any one factor.
“The comprehensive strategy of the Cayman Islands to position itself as the premier destination for discriminating couples that has been in place for several years continually reaps returns as weddings have a long planning cycle.
“Just last week we booked the ideal wedding for our property and Cayman. It’s a Florida couple bringing down about 100 guests who will stay a long weekend towards the end of the year. The couple had decided on the destination first and was flexible on timing within a certain window.”
Desiree Evans of the Grand Old House said it was “so far, so good.”
“I don’t see really big changes compared with last year; people are still struggling and it’s a little bit down but in general they are still coming, still bringing their guests down. Wedding parties are a little bit bigger. It’s basically like 2010 and we’re doing fine.
“For cruise ship weddings January and February were a little bit down but after that it picked up and May and June are quite open and good again. Average party for a cruise ship wedding is about 20, and for an evening wedding it’s about 40 to 45.”
Value for money
Joy Basdeo said that her company had done more stayover weddings in 2011 than the previous year and that cruise weddings over the 2010/2011 winter season were strong.
“Cruise visitors are very obviously looking for value for money,but I have had a few clients downgrade their package based on their changed financial situation. We have also seen more clients travelling as a couple.” She added that currently summer bookings looked light but this may be due to more last-minute bookings. Wedding vow renewals also can help the bottom line.
Neil van Niekerk, manager at the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman, said that so far their year had been quite busy.
“[They have been] rather varied in size, from to person intimate weddings, to 25 person small destination style weddings to the grandiose 130 person Owen Island wedding… where no expense was spared.”
Ms. Basdeo cautioned, however, that many wedding vendors were hurting.
“I have seen a big decline in clients requesting videography for example, also wedding cakes. I believe that the pie is smaller, and there are more companies out there arranging cruise weddings. I know of at least one hotel offering cruise weddings, and more than one restaurant. There are also more event planning companies, although I wouldn’t be surprised if some have also gone out of business,” she noted.
The wedding expert said that time spent marketing through blogging and social media was paying off. Good reviews are vital and outstanding customer service remains paramount because a bad review can stick to a company for a long time.