Love is in the air … again

There is a reason why television’s premier reality dating show, The Bachelor, has chosen to have its final rose ceremony in St Lucia twice. For years the Helen of the West Indies has been consistently lauded as the ultimate honeymoon destination. The St Lucia Tourist Board has encapsulated some of that magic in Love Elevated, a wedding symposium which debuted last year to rave reviews and is back for a second installment. Marketing Manager of Special Market at the SLTB, Shamma Phillipee-Harris offered some insight on what prompted the event.

A scene from last year’s mock wedding which was the centerpiece of the Love Elevated wedding symposium held here.

A scene from last year’s mock wedding which was the centerpiece of the Love Elevated wedding symposium held here.

“The wedding and romance niche market is very important to the St Lucia Tourist Board.  Us having won so many accolades, being world’s best honeymoon destination for many years, we thought that we were missing out on some opportunities because St Lucia really is known as a honeymoon destination. And we wanted to focus on the romance and how we could get people to know about weddings in St Lucia. We know that there are a lot of service providers in St Lucia that perhaps do not have exposure.”

“Two years ago we came up with this wedding symposium. Last year we did it for the first time and it was a major success in that the wedding suppliers locally were able to meet with international buyers; those persons who sell wedding and honeymoon packages in our international market. It was beneficial for everyone in the sense that they were able to get ideas, learn about the trends in the industry, what couples are looking for, how they can upgrade their services and so on. Coming off that success we wanted to repeat it and we thought that it would be good to have an annual event.”

The event boasts an impressive lineup of international speakers from the North American and UK markets, which are our main markets, speaking on various topics.

Dawn Butcher from leading destination management company, Kuoni, will cover UK wedding trends. Mywedding.com’s Charles Oster offers advice on tapping into the multimillion dollar wedding industry. Jennifer Doncsecz from VIP Vacations Inc will speak on how to brand yourself and close the sale. The Knot’s Shri Lildharrie shares US destination wedding news. Regional presentations include creating bridal bliss with Sandals Resorts director of romance, Marsha Ann Brown. Locally, the SLTB’s Lorine Charles St Jules talks about saying “I do” in St Lucia. Phillipee-Harris is clear about the message that will be brought across.

“We think that it’s important to let people know what is unique about St Lucia so they can select St Lucia above all of the other destinations. Why do people keep coming back? Why is it that we are so popularly known as a romance destination?”

Three new additions to this year’s program promise to add tremendous value.

“An added element for us is wedding market chat. It is an online talk show hosted by Julie Albaugh who is the CEO of MarketNews.com. It’s a new feature which we think would add premium to the wedding symposium. She has over 77, 000 followers where people listen in and tweet their comments and questions, and a panelist answers your questions.”

Another surprise? Top chef runner up and daughter of the soil, Nina Compton.

“A new feature is a chef demonstration by our very own culinary ambassador chef Nina Compton. She has been doing quite well promoting St Lucia’s culinary aspects in the marketplace and the fresh, unique ingredients that can be incorporated into your menu. So she can speak about infusing our local products into the wedding menu. Some of the agents coming down are very excited for her demonstration.”

Lastly, there will be a consumer day, open to the general public, on Saturday September 27th.

“It’s a trade event but we think there is opportunity for the service providers to gain more exposure on the local front because people get married here as well. There are people who want to get married here and they don’t know what service providers are available.”

But of course the pièce de résistance is the mock wedding which will be held cliffside at Cap Maison at sunset. The Love Elevated wedding symposium runs September 24th-28th. For more information and scheduled times and venues visit www.stlucia.org.

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