According to The Wedding Report—the leading authority on bridal data in the U.S.—the bridal market continues to show some resiliency in terms of spending. Average expenditure in 2009 was $19,581 and now, in 2010, it is $21,632. While it is yet to return to the high of 2007 when average expenditure was $28,732, consumer confidence is back and engaged couples are getting married.
Where are they getting married? Religious venues (church, synagogue, etc.) show a decline (according to the latest statement from the Catholic Church). Couples are increasingly holding their wedding ceremony and reception at the same venue. In 2008, this number was 44 percent and in 2010 it has shot up to 56 percent. Hence, the continued rise in destination weddings—a lucrative niche in the business of weddings.
The number of weddings also has seen an increase—from 2,190,363 at the beginning of the economic crisis to 2,266,416 now. The average number of guests at a wedding is also on the rise, from 128 in 2009 to 140 this year.
Search engines and social networks play a pivotal role in the expansion of your business and reaching today’s tech-savvy couples. Over 42.6 percent use technology to plan a wedding. You have a golden opportunity to explain the benefits of switching to you, the travel agent. Tell them of the “joys” of travel today—how you can help them reach their destination with as little hassle as possible and provide qualified help and guidance on arrival. Remind them how agents came to the rescue of clients stranded when the recent ash cloud from the volcano spread across Europe.
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I recently attended the Romance Showcase at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica—a five-star property on over 400 acres of pristine waterfront. Attending this event were over 25 travel agents, plus local and international news reporters. The Master Wedding Planners (yes, that is what they call themselves) provided a memorable time for all, showcasing to this very valued group, all the amenities offered for the wedding/honeymoon couple.
Sharing the panel for the discussion on The Business of Weddings was the president of Bayside Travel, Barbara Nichuals. Knowledgeable and warm, she truly represents today’s service provider.
As the owner of Larchmont, NY-based Bayside Travel (for over 20 years) and Bronxville, NY-based Gramatan Travel, her career in the industry has been a stellar one. Both her travel companies are Virtuoso members.
With over 40 members in her team, her company has a full-time concierge on staff to handle spas, weddings, tee times and whatever else that is needed. She is proud of her team’s knowledge—they have traveled extensively through all continents.
When asked to give an overview of the performance of travel agents, her response was: “Travel consultants are definitely not a dying breed; in fact, when asked whether the Internet has hurt or helped the business, my answer [would be that] it has helped. We have savvy clients, who have done some research, but then find themselves frustrated and in greater need of expert guidance. We must be innovative and continue to reinvent ourselves to stay ahead of the marketplace. Do not try to be all things to all clients, but be the best at what you do. Nurture your relationships with your supplier partners and clients. There is definitely life after an economic downturn.”
Bayside Travel, which is presently celebrating its 50th anniversary, has a tagline that reads “Specialists in the Art of Travel.” To know more about the art of travel, get in touch with Nichuals (914-833-8880; [email protected]). For further information on the bridal market, contact me at [email protected].