ST. KITTS – Since COVID-19 outbreak, Natalie John of Dreamy Weddings has turned to technology to develop creative ways to keep her business going.
With restricted access to beaches and iconic attractions and the imposition of curfews and other protocols that enforce physical distancing, John explains that many Caribbean weddings and other celebratory events have either been cancelled, postponed or transformed into virtual affairs.
The St. Kitts-based entrepreneur is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her wedding planning business which offers services in 13 Caribbean destinations. A major international event had been planned for November 6-8, 2020, featuring wedding planner to the stars, Preston Bailey and LA event planner Eddie Zaratsian.
The weekend event was designed to bring greater awareness to the weddings and honeymoon product in St. Kitts through a group vow renewal, wedding planners breakfast forum, as well as island tours and site inspections to showcase the destination.
In light of travel restrictions and the surge in COVID-19 cases in major source markets throughout the US, John has reimagined the November event into a hybrid format, combining in-person and virtual strategies to target an even wider audience than she would have reached through her traditional live event.
This year’s virtual event will be used to launch next year’s live event scheduled for Nov. 4 – 8, 2021 and to kick off an intensive promotional campaign. Both Mr. Bailey & Mr. Zaratsian have reconfirmed their attendance and commitment to the events for 2021.
Several local partners including The St. Kitts Tourism Authority (SKTA), The Royal St. Kitts Hotel, The Park Hyatt and St. Kitts Marriott Resort are sponsors of the event.
“The thing with remote participants is that after they engage with you online, you begin to build a relationship. So when you meet later at a face-to-face event, that relationship has already been established and it can make the in-person experience and connection even stronger. ”
So while challenges exist, this industry leader has enlisted the help of a major celebrity and lifestyle influencer to help create awareness for the wedding and honeymoon market. She will also leverage technology to reach a targeted audience using a platform that combines video, instant messaging, social networking, chat and other audio-visual tools.
“This new virtual format is probably the best alternative in these challenging times as we seek to rebuild our tourism business throughout the region. By their very nature, virtual events allow for a higher level of attendance and participation regardless of travel restrictions. Caribbean people are resilient and when we face challenges we explore new options and look at things differently. So rather than displacing live events, digital events can actually enhance them.”
John is coauthor of a soon-to-be-released book that will provide industry professionals with new strategies, guidelines and procedures to navigate the industry in a COVID era. She is also the founder of CWEP, an association/network that brings Caribbean wedding and event professionals together digitally to converse, problem-solve, inspire and learn from each other. The organization is currently focused on establishing industry standards and policies to address new health and safety protocols.
As a Board Member of the Facebook Group, Travel Advisors Selling the Caribbean (TASC), John also lends her expertise to ensure that the region’s unique selling points are fully articulated throughout the travel community.
She is one of organizers of The Caribbean Connection Walk for Wellness, a virtual initiative that will mobilize travel advisors to join the destinations that they sell to focus on a day of action in support of wellness.
The online event will be held on September 12, 2020 which is celebrated as Caribbean Wellness Day. It will raise awareness about the Caribbean’s new experiential landscape brought about by a significant shift in health and wellness behaviors as well as visitor expectations in a COVID-19 era.