VICKI KURTH, PRINCIPAL, Port Douglas Weddings & Hire
When the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2007, the effect on the tourism industry was wide-ranging. Bookings and revenue for both domestic and international tourism were way down. The Business Events market was impacted dramatically, with businesses folding or massively cutting their discretionary spend for many years following. It was in the shadow of the GFC that we decided to expand our services into the wedding market, as it seemed that when the ‘going got tough’ the ‘tough got married’. We had proven expertise in managing large numbers and the resources to facilitate. Destination weddings became a trend globally, and Port Douglas was perfectly positioned to capitalise, with its many attractions and picturesque locations.
The following ten years saw a steady rise in weddings in the Shire, to an average of about 500 weddings per year currently. With an average stay of three nights, and a group size of around 55 people, weddings provide a significant contribution to the local economy.
Some years are ‘softer’ than others, with 2019 being a little quieter than the previous year, but 2020 was promising to be a big one.
May is traditionally the start of the “wedding season”, generally continuing through to early November. This year will be very different due to COVID-19 restrictions, with limited numbers of people allowed to gather and travel restrictions in place. The uncertainty is forcing many couples to reconsider their plans, and clients with international visitors are the early movers, most of whom are postponing to next year, whilst others are taking a punt on booking for the end of the year.
For weddings in August and beyond, most of our clients are playing the waiting game, and are hoping that restrictions may have eased by then. The key for us is to give them comfort that we are flexible, helping them work through any concerns they may have, and any changes that might need to be made. Most suppliers are graciously allowing deposit monies to be allocated to the future date which is also helping to allay concerns.
The saying that we are “all in this together” may be overused, but it goes to the heart of what we are all feeling in Port Douglas at the moment.
Like all of us in the tourism sector, we have been hit hard, but can empathise with each other’s concerns about what the future holds. From a wedding perspective, this may be a shortened wedding season, however, from what we see, next year will be the big one.