Wed | Aug 17, 2022

Honeymoons cut in half, but Ocho Rios tops destination list

Published:Wednesday | June 29, 2022 | 12:07 AMSteven Jackson/Senior Business Reporter

Ocho Rios in Jamaica topped the list of global honeymoon destinations during the pandemic, but weddings and honeymoons are still down by half, according to large online travel platform Kayak and official government data. The size of the market is...

Ocho Rios in Jamaica topped the list of global honeymoon destinations during the pandemic, but weddings and honeymoons are still down by half, according to large online travel platform Kayak and official government data.

The size of the market is not only important for providers of accommodation, but also businesses such as events companies, flower shops, and caterers.

Daniel Brooks and Dominique Turnquest Brooks got married last month after more than a decade of long-distance courting.

Daniel, an executive at a call centre in Kingston, and Dominique, an anaesthesiologist in The Bahamas, chose Couples Tower Isle on the north coast for their honeymoon. The resort technically lies in St Mary, but checks online show some booking sites label it as being in or near to Ocho Rios.

Part of the pull for the resort town is Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica’s largest attraction. But it is also within easy reach of three international airports.

“We chose the location because of the convenience, budget, and for sentimental reasons,” said Daniel about the choice. “We spent 10 days, and the all-inclusive costs at Tower Isle were affordable enough to stay within our budget.”

The convenience meant that Daniel was always less than an hour from Kingston, just in case there was a work emergency.

“I stayed at the resort the whole time, thankfully,” he said. “But the location meant that when we were leaving, it was just a quick drive back to Kingston.”

Kayak said that Ocho Rios topped its list of international ‘minimoon’ destinations. Additionally, it stated that search interest in the location increased 167 per cent in 2022, compared to 2021. A minimoon is a shorter, sometimes cheaper alternative to a honeymoon.

The list ranks Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Ponce, Puerto Rico; St Augustine, Florida; Cayman Islands; Negril, Jamaica; Punta Gorda, Florida; Atlantic City, New Jersey; The Bahamas; Curaçao; and San Diego, California.

Weddings are down by half during the pandemic, according to data from the Jamaica Tourist Board. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, some 200,000 persons came to Jamaica for weddings and honeymoons – accounting for 7.5 per cent of total stopover visitors in 2019, according to JTB statistics. That figure plummeted in 2020 and 2021 down to four per cent of total stopover visitors, due to the travel restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus. So far this year, January to March, weddings and honeymoons have accounted for 3.7 per cent of stopover visitors, or 18,900 tourists.

“Wedding planners say they have forward bookings. So, for 2022, things are looking up,” Milton Morris, principal at Gorgeous Flowers, told the Financial Gleaner.

The company based in Kingston supplies flowers to wedding planners across the island. It operates with a staff of 20, which includes Morris’ wife and two daughters. In 2020, with the onset of the pandemic, weddings virtually stopped.

“We had to dump a lot of flowers,” said Morris about the drop in orders.

Consequently, the company slashed its farm purchases from Ecuador and Colombia and operated in a defensive mode. Now with weddings “inching back towards 2019 levels”, the company remains optimistic despite global inflation and geopolitical upheaval in Eastern Europe, where the turmoil has infected world markets.

“I think it is picking up,” Morris said, regarding wedding activity. “It is falling back a little now, but overall things are still happening,” he said.

Main Event Entertainment Group, a large events management company, which operates a wedding subsidiary called M Style, earned $81 million in revenue for its 2021 full year, down from $112 million in 2020. The depressed wedding revenue reflected the wider decline in group revenue at $758 million, down from $1.05 billion in 2020. The company blamed the disaster risk management measures to stem the spread of the virus, which curbed entertainment events in the country.

With the disaster risk measures ended in March, Daniel and Dominique went ahead with their traditional wedding in May: white gown, flowers, church ceremony, scores of guests, and a reception at Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. The couple now lives and works in The Bahamas and are ready to start their new life.

“Yesterday, we saw dolphins, and last night I saw the most beautiful thing ever. My wife,” he told the Financial Gleaner to giggles in the background.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com