Cayman is recognised as a world-class destination for weddings but can go the extra mile to lead the industry.
The Cayman Islands has a real opportunity to become a leader in destination weddings, says an award-winning local professional JoAnne Brown.
“The Knot did a report about the luxury bride, what they were spending and what they did and did not like. The luxury bride is defined as someone who spends over $100,000 on a wedding and that is 20 per cent of the market,” said JoAnne Brown of Celebrations.
The wedding planner and designer spoke to the Journal after returning from the Engage!11 wedding conference, which was held at Grand El Mar, San Diego from 30 May to 2 June. A similar event takes place in Cayman this November and together they are considered high-end conferences for the wedding industry.
“You are talking to the best people and hearing from the top and hearing facts. Cayman has to step its game up all the way around. We are poised for this luxury market; there’s no doubt about that but expectations are high and we need to exceed those expectations at every touch point of the experience.
“From the moment they arrive on island to people by the side of the road being friendly and welcoming it is so important. Destination weddings to Cayman are huge business; it is a niche market that we can really and truly propel ourselves into being the best at in the Caribbean. We do not want hundreds and hundreds of brides, 10 weddings on one property back to back – that is not Cayman’s market. Because we are one wedding, one property it is private, custom weddings that feel luxurious and special.”
Up the game
In order for Cayman to up its game, there are opportunities such as offering more choice in accommodation and looking at the reception at the airport.
“We need more small, boutique-type hotels, which are situated in areas that are not going to mind if a wedding goes on until 1am; it is their one day and they want to enjoy it.
“We could establish welcomes at the airport for the bridal party – there could be a special line for them saying, you are getting married here so join this line,” noted the wedding planner and designer.
She added that family activities and adventures on-island are now an important part of the destination wedding and locations such as the motor museum had enhanced what was on offer for wedding parties. Cayman’s infrastructure is way ahead of many other Caribbean destinations already, said Brown.
“You do want the budget bride to a certain extent but we need to market to the luxury bride to place the destination appropriately. This is not cookie-cutter stuff; we have a lot more to offer from food at the restaurants, accommodation and the ability to get married anywhere on the island.”
Another thing that would help Cayman’s own wedding market would be ensuring airlift and air fares were appropriate.
“Westjet coming in has been the best thing to happen to Cayman and we need more routes, especially out of Texas, which is a really big hub for destination weddings. San Antonio, Dallas – that belt of the States and the Carolinas.
“New York and Boston are top of the list. The UK and Europe, with proper airlift in here [could also be a very important market].
The romance sector has now become recognised as an important part of the tourism industry. Indeed, at the Engage event, it was noted that destination weddings had grown by 84 per cent in the last three years, with budgets increasing internationally.
“It is seen that there is a lot of business here; the average number of wedding guests coming started at 10, went to 22 and now the latest number is 46, which is huge. Priority for the bride is the guest experience and people are on-island for four to five days around the big event. They can really make it their own; it’s close family, close friends coming along, which is why it is getting momentum.
“The bride is getting the wedding of her dreams and the guests are getting the best time ever on holiday,” concluded Ms. Brown, who was recently named as an A-list planner by Destination Weddings And Honeymoons magazine.
The Engage!11 wedding summit will be held at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman between 14 and 17 November. The conference brings together professionals from all aspects of the wedding industry. The business-to-business summit is designed to inspire innovation and priceless in-person connections for wedding-related business.
Many destination weddings, collaborations and partnerships have benefited Cayman and Cayman companies due to previous events, added Brown.
“Engage is very, very influential in bringing people here,” she said.