The Saint Lucia Tourist Board does it again! Over the weekend of September 26-29 the board hosted the first-ever wedding symposium under the title Love Elevated. Saint Lucia has over the last ten years consistently been voted the Caribbean’s leading destination for weddings and honeymoons.
Saint Lucia is truly the not-so-secret garden where love blossoms and thrives, and last weekend the good folks at the SLTB decided to share our unique fantasy-island atmosphere with travel agents and experts in the bridal market. Hosted at Sandals Grande, the event boasted an impressive honor list of local industry partners and service providers. Participants were treated to seminars by a range of riveting speakers closely associated with the wedding markets. Topics centered on creating the ideal wedding destination to marketing to brides. Addressed in depth were evolving industry trends both in the UK and the USA, and there were seminars focused on marketing and even the renewal of vows and the perfect honeymoon.
Explaining the inspiration behind the seminars, the SLTB’s Director of Marketing, Tracey Warner-Arnold said the board recognized the need to continue educating local service providers. “The wedding industry is changing and evolving,” she said. “To be competitive in this industry we have to continuously improve on our services. And that requires a particular kind of education.”
Warner’s sentiments were echoed by Director of Tourism, Louis Lewis. “Love is recession proof,” he said. “People continue to spend on their weddings, despite the economic weather. But their demands are now greater than ever. For Saint Lucia to continue being the leading wedding and honeymoon destination we must always remain acutely aware of our competition. More than that, we cannot allow ourselves to fall short of the bride and groom’s expectations.”
From mingling with the participants, I found they agreed wholeheartedly with the SLTB’s motivations. Levelle DuBoulay, wedding coordinator at Bay Gardens Beach Resort, said the event had given her new insights into the trends of the wedding market in the US and UK, and what clients now expect—in particular the young, sophisticated bride.
And what exactly was that?
According to Levelle, brides are no longer satisfied with a floral gazebo on the beach. For some, that has become, well, corny. They want a more “authentic vibe.” Rendezvous, for example, featured in their booth a gazebo made of driftwood.
Kayt Cooper of Awesome Caribbean Weddings confirmed the Pitons and Pigeon Island remain “very popular locations. People still want that amazing view for their wedding!” Like her fellow providers, Kate got from the seminars lots of good ideas to tweak the wedding market.
On one thing everyone agreed: Saint Lucia is a singular wedding destination, outstanding in the Caribbean market.
The highlight of the two-day event came on Saturday morning when the SLTB hosted a mock wedding at the beautiful Pigeon Island Antional Landmark. Travel agents and experts got to experience the magic and romance of a true Saint Lucian wedding. A complete wedding experience!
On the other hand there were the observations of Kay Mitchell from Beyond and Back Travel, a Saint Lucia travel specialist for twenty years. She touched on the developing trend towards larger parties traveling with the bride and groom, which was good news. But then there remained problem of airlift. “If you don’t live in a major hub you can’t get to Saint Lucia in a day,” she pointed out, “this hurts the island!”
Tom Varghese, Director of Sales for American Express Travel Services, noted the average flight into Saint Lucia is US$1600. “That’s the same price as a round trip to ticket to China,” he said. Varghese emphasized the need for more flights—but at better prices! “This remains our major hurdle to selling the island. A lot of business goes to Jamaica and Mexico, simply because of their cost-effective airlift!”
Varghese’s complaint was echoed by all the travel agents. It is a problem that somehow the SLTB and the Ministry of Tourism must resolve.
All in all, the Tourist Board staged a highly successful symposium on romance that should further enhance the island’s reputation as a wedding and honeymoon destination.
If I may be permitted to end on a personal note to my own spouse: What a treat. It made me want to walk down the isle all over again. Vows renewal, maybe? (Come to think about it, bet there are many ladies reading this who wouldn’t mind doing it all over again, honeymoon and all—a la mode.)