Main image: Destination Wedding in Rome by destination wedding planner Giritaly.
Destination Wedding tourism is one of the most affected sectors with travel restrictions and overall risk aversion to travel domestically or internationally under the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The outbreak of coronavirus globally has forced postponement or cancellations of weddings across borders, leading to huge losses for couples and wedding vendors across the globe. But despite the obstacles, the spirit of the industry has not dampened and wedding connoisseurs are #InItTogether and have pledged to motivate, help and support each other so that the fraternity can emerge stronger and overcome this unfortunate scenario. What has really held the industry together is the commendable support they have shown towards their industry peers by virtual means.
The organizers of the Destination Wedding Planners (DWP) Congress taking place at the Mitsis Alila Resort and Spa in November 2020, which is recognized as the world’s largest B2B platform for the destination wedding industry, reached out to wedding experts from across the globe whom they have been working with from over 70 countries to get insights on how the industry is surviving in the current times.
They have curated a list of top tips and strategies that wedding industry professionals want to share with their peers to help them sustain through this challenging period. These are as follows:
1- Postpone, Don’t Cancel!
One of the most commonly shared ideologies was that of being futuristic and thinking practically about the wedding business that can be revived once the world is relieved from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Annie Lee, the Founder of Daughter of Design, a luxury boutique wedding design agency in USA, initiated the ‘Postpone, Don’t Cancel’ campaign and this has now become one of the most talked about survival anthems for the industry, and a lot of experts too are vowing by it. This wonderful ideology encourages wedding connoisseurs to delay the wedding and look at different dates, rather than giving up on the project and pulling the plug on it. Choosing the latter would not only affect the business and its credibility but would also cause personal and emotional strain.
Destinations across the globe are trying to reinstate this message by adopting strategies which can spread the message positively. Chiara Gheri, Wedding Divisions Manager at Destination Florence Convention & Visitor Bureau / Tuscany for Weddings division is a firm believer of the same. She says "We tried to find a way to remain positive and share a powerful message to the wedding community. We started a social campaign called #saveyourtuscandream, encouraging to delay the event looking at new dates."
This also leads to the fact that the decisions of professionals in the industry need to be based on achieving long terms goals, which would help them further develop the business not only a few months down the line but in the coming years as well. “Remember how you handle your customers now will have lasting effects for years, so think long term, not just in the moment, no matter how painful that feels” recommends Alan Berg, Author, Sales Trainer & Wedding Expert from USA.
Planning long terms also includes having back-up plans in place. No doubt that the current global health scenario has taken a toll and jeopardized the industry, which is why coming up with back-up plans that can bail you out is more important than ever now.
“When this is over, you’ll need to be ready to hit the ground running, so plan ahead during this period. Go back to the drawing board, and devise Plan A, Plan B … Plan Z to consider all possibilities and cover contingencies. At the risk of sounding cliche, I will repeat the famous saying "Failing to Plan, is Planning to Fail", sums up Elie Azar, CEO and Owner of ParAzar Productions from Lebanon.
2 – Strengthen Business Strategies
In order to sustain the wedding business, customer service and client satisfaction would definitely need to be a priority. The more accommodative you would be towards the client, the more trust and credibility you would build.
"Keep your competitive offers coming and make sure they are 150% value for money, all additions will help the couple better afford the wedding. Weddings are going to be smaller and budgets may be a key driver. Do not try and capitalize on the comeback and charge exorbitant prices, aim for a win-win situation where the hotel and couples do not lose out" emphasizes Noreen Rocque, Weddings Director at Atlantis, The Palm, UAE.
Sharing similar thoughts is Linda Rossi, Sales Manager at Artimino in Italy. She states "Suggest postponing the wedding with discounts for the bride and the groom. Be flexible with the cancellation policy and payments."
Strengthening business strategies would also help in trying to identify the new ways to diversify or change your business model. Wedding Industry Educator and Founder of Cocktails & Details based in USA, Terrica Skaggs recommends "Start diversifying your income and revenue streams. Brainstorm new ways to get your brand noticed and hired."
Another interesting way to expand business could be partnerships with fellow industry peers. "Don’t go and plan alone, even if you can… help local events planner to get through this crisis. If things get worse and you will be running out of cash, maybe it’s time for a partnership with your close colleagues that might be in the same situation" shares Fabrice Orlando, Founder of Cocoon Events in Morocco.
Another very essential aspect that will help wedding professionals truly sustain and further elevate their services will be the use of PR for increased brand awareness. "Think of this entire thing as a huge PR process for your business, if you handle this poorly, send the wrong messages out on your social media channels or treat your fellow suppliers poorly, it will be remembered. Likewise, if you offer strong communication, show leadership, and organization and let the best parts of your own persona and brand personality shine through, you will be remembered" shares Emma Matthew, Founder & Director of Timeless White Wedding Planning, Scotland.
3 - All for One, One for All #InItTogether
COVID-19 is affecting not just a handful of people, it is impacting the entire industry globally, and the only way to stand strong is by supporting one another, helping one another and being there for each other.
Mireia Tubau, the Barcelona Weddings Product Manager at the Barcelona Tourism Board suggests "As a community, we need to support each other, and we fully trust to be connected and in touch is a must."
Cristina Salazar, a wedding planner based in Costa Rica too suggests supporting one another, especially the vendors. She says, "show off the vendors you work with, they need you. Share your vendors’ profiles so they can share yours. Do not ask vendors for commissions."
4 – Communication goes a long way!
We are all #InItTogether and during this challenging phase, communicating with each other within the business is more important than ever. Eleni Rantou, Sales Manager at Erosantorini, Greece says "Communication among planners. Vendors are the key during these difficult times so as to exchange opinions and get to know each other. Maybe the creation of a community platform would be a great idea at this point.”
"Be honest, honest with your staff, honest with your couples and honest with your suppliers. Don’t be silent or pretend everything is fine when it isn’t, that will just make things worse, trust in people’s good nature and it will see you through" adds Matthew Oliver, the Founder of Matthew Oliver Weddings from UK.
5 – Relax, take time out for yourself
Thinking about the business, about the clients, about the vendors and partners is needed to be able to survive through this period. But what’s needed all the more is trying to unwind, and dedicate time for yourself and your loved ones. Doing things that you love or just spending time with your family can really help in achieving peace of mind.
"Take advantage of this time to do the things that you dream of doing but are normally too busy. Write that book. Submit work to magazines. Write your blog posts. Begin using a social media program like Later or Sprout Social" shares Michele Fox Gott, Founder of Center of Attention, USA.
Radhika Nathwani, Founder of Radhika & You from UK also shares her tips. She suggests "Each day try and do something for you that makes you feel happy. Do a home workout, meditate, tidy your workspace, video call with family and friends, read a book, or watch episodes of your favorite series on Netflix."
6 - Stay positive!
"We’ll come out on the other side of this better for the lessons we’ve learned as a result of these times" says Meehan Fee of Destinations Unveiled, USA.
Tiziana Tamara, Wedding Planner at Cake and Confetti Events in Switzerland says "Stay positive, it’s hard to believe right now, but things happen for a reason. Look at it with the half glass full angle and keep going."