It’s time for travel companies and tourist boards to take the plunge and get into the lucrative weddings market. This was the clear message given at the first dedicated seminar on tying the knot abroad at the World Travel Market in London.

The global weddings industry is worth US$300 bn, is almost recession proof and continues to grow, according to Susan Barone, founder and director of Luxury Weddings Worldwide, who moderated the session, entitled: “Say ‘I do’ to the destination wedding market and enhance your brand”.

“Travel and weddings are two very different business areas and are more successful when brought together,” said Barone. “It’s not just a matter of supplying one particular wedding any more. It’s something uniquely different. Everyone is trying to plan something better than the last destination wedding that they went to. Luxury wedding planner Bruce Russell, who manages upmarket special days for couples spending £250,000 and above, said, “Destination weddings are five-six days. It’s no longer the one day. And it’s not just about the couple. They do realise that it’s about the guest experience as well.”

He said Italy remains hugely popular for weddings, while Marrakesh is becoming a good option, due to a wide variety of locations, light and easy access. Asia and Thailand destinations are also popular. But couples often do not have a destination in mind. Rather, some have a theme, such as getting married by a lake, or having a beach or a mountain wedding: “It’s about the destination but it’s also about the experience,” Russell added.

Samantha Berry, wedding team lead at tour operator Kuoni, told delegates: “It’s not just about the wedding couple themselves as about the wedding party, how they are going to get to the venue where they will stay. The best thing is to listen to the couple and get a feel for what they want for their day and their week.”

International wedding photographer Jules Bower said tourist boards and travel companies still have plenty of opportunity to grab a slice of the market: “Right now the wedding industry is booming and will continue to do so as long as more options become available. There are plenty of clients out there that want something unique and bespoke and this is true in the luxury market. People are just pushing the limits all the time.”

Dileep Mudadeniva, vice president brand marketing at Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts said it is important for hoteliers not to have too rigid an approach, as couples can often change their mind, even at the last minute.

Photo: Susan Barone, Founder & Director, Luxury Weddings Worldwide.