By Dr. Peter Tarlow
June is known as the month of love. In the northern hemisphere it is also the most popular month in which to marry. In fact many people dream of a June wedding. Although there are specific locales that are known for weddings and romantic interludes, in reality with a small amount of creativity, almost any location can turn itself into a wedding or romantic destination.
A major marketing tool that can apply to locations almost anywhere is the love and marriage market often connected with romantic tourism. In fact this market is so big that it is estimated that romantic tourism, including destination weddings and romantic getaways, is a world-wide (US) 28 billion dollar industry. Although, the part of the industry that is most lucrative is the wedding market, there are many other subparts to the romantic tourism industry such as special weekends, honeymoon experiences or anniversary celebrations.
As noted this is a large and lucrative part of the tourism industry. For example in the United States it is estimated that honeymooners spend on average almost $5,000 per couple. When it comes to weddings we need to consider not only the cost of the wedding and other purchases made by the couple, but the amount of money spent by the wedding’s guests. Some of these people will not only attend the wedding but given the right motivation they may turn their time at the wedding into their own vacation experience.
Weddings need not however be in big named locations. In fact, small towns, or out-of-the way locations, often can reap large profits from this segment of the market. The other big advantage of marriage and romantic tourism is that a community does not need to have a lot of attractions. In fact, in some cases, especially in rural areas, we may argue that the fewer the attractions the more romantic the setting.
Below are several ideas for your community to take advantage of this large and ever-growing market.
– Know what you have and what you do not have. Do you have a place of lodging that can accommodate weddings or offer upgraded packages for newlyweds? Are there settings that are photogenic? The more photogenic a location the more romantic it will be considered? With the couple’s permission, see if you can use past wedding photos from your locale as part of your promotion. These photos create a sense of magical reality and put your community in its best light.
– Does your community have a marketing plan that interacts with potential wedding providers or honeymooners? For example run a fam-trip for wedding planers or develop a special section on your website that promotes weddings, romantic getaways or honeymoons. Make sure that the information given is listed as key words so that when people seeking these types of trips pull up your page.
– Create a Wedding or Romantic getaway app. This app can move the entire experience into the digitized world, facilitate the paying bills, allow couples to keep records of everything from who attended to what rooms people blocked. The easier the process the more attractive your site will be.
– Think like a potential couple. Put yourself in their shoes. What questions would you have? What would be your concerns? How do they define a successful wedding? How can you psychologically meet them on their terms?
– Offer to meet the engaged couple on-line even before they settle on their final choice. Weddings are about relationships and an on-line meeting sets the tone prior to their visiting your community. Use such social media tools such as Facebook, Skype or WhatsApp to develop a relationship. Do not use these tools to badger the couple or to present a hard sale, If possible, offer to have the couple visit a real wedding in your community or speak to couple that recently married in your locale.
– Put your best foot forward. Never promote what you do not have, but tell what you do have in the nicest way possible. Use photography to show photographic settings and develop romantic or honeymoon packages that fit every budget.
– Market your community as an engagement center. Although not everyone will want to marry where they first got engaged, a successful engagement encourages people to want to return. Promote everything from flowers to rings, from discounts at restaurants to a special evening at a local restaurant or other attraction.
– Develop creative partnering. For example, work with florists, jewelry stores and if they exist in your locale, wineries. Provide vouchers that can be used right before or after the ceremony. Have a list of people who can officiate at the wedding so that couples can feel comfortable with both the person officiating at the wedding and the person planning the wedding reception. Offer an after wedding brunch or special; wine tasting. The bottom line is that couples getting married want to feel special and the more important and special your community makes the couple feel the more satisfied they will be.
– Be prepared for same-sex couples or guests. Although different locales and nations may have differing laws, reality is that this is a growing market and one that aggressively knows its rights and is prepared to fight for them. It is not your job to judge anyone. Instead treat each person with dignity and respect each person’s humanity.