The pandemic (also) is primed with weddings

The approximately 600 families that live directly (a thousand indirectly) in the wedding sector in the Canary Islands, are on the edge. The pandemic, which due to the successive restrictions imposed to combat it have brought with it the limitation to the celebration of these events, caused an average drop in turnover last year in the islands of 90%, compared to 110 million in a “normal” year . Although the horizon does not finish clearing in 2021, in which the uncertainty continues.

The data from the National Institute of Statistics referring to the first semester of 2020, and which have been released a few days ago, put figures on a trend that was already known: that the coronavirus crisis had been primed with the celebration of matrimonial ties. The decrease in Spain in that period was 61%, with a total of 28,000 registered unions. In the Canary Islands, the decrease from January to June was somewhat lower, 51%, which went from just over 3,000 in the first half of 2019 to 1,500 in the same period of last year. Both in the national and regional case, as of April the link records are close to zero.

Myriam Batista, vice president of the management committee of the recently established Association of Wedding Professionals of the Canary Islands (APBC), points out that this sector is among the most affected by the restrictions due to the pandemic. “They have not let us work,” he says. He explains that the fact that the capacity of the spaces has been limited, but also the maximum number of people allowed in them regardless of that capacity, has prevented the celebration of the weddings planned for 2020. And to this is added the prevailing uncertainty, which has also wreaked havoc. “Last year there was a regulation on Friday to come into force on Saturday, with weddings set up with their flowers, tables, catering … Maybe they meant 20,000 euros of losses,” adds Batista, who admits that many self-employed professionals have already “sought another way ”, like DJs who have become insurance salespeople or decorators who are now dependent.

There is hope? “We have an open line with the Ministry of Health so that we can work with a certainty that we can offer our clients. Our events are planned from one year to the next. The wedding sector is going to live two years to zero and many companies are going to disappear, ”says Batista.

One of the specialized companies in the sector is Bernadette Garside, head of The Perfect Wedding Company, based in Gran Canaria. Most of its clients are foreigners, which has been doubly affected by the impact of the pandemic on the tourism sector. 95% of its clients passed the celebrations to 2021, while others have definitively canceled. “I don’t see any positive news that customers can fly to the islands anytime soon,” he says.

Eduardo Pérez and Ayoze González are the owners of GR Eventos, also specialized in organizing weddings, in this case in Tenerife. It is one of the largest in the archipelago, with about 600 organized – in whole or in part – a year. Although during the confinement their income was “zero”, later they began to go up until in September, the classification of the weddings as a massive event forced them to be canceled, and with it, to dispense with part of the 10 employees of the company (although indirectly, another 10 depend on their activity). The expansion of the capacity to 150 people in these events since January has opened them, in any case, a ray of hope.

Hotels

The celebration of weddings in hotel establishments has also been affected by the coronavirus crisis. This is specified by the president of the Las Palmas Hospitality and Tourism Federation (FEHT), José María Mañaricúa: “From March to June, the hotels were closed due to the state of alarm. In July, around 40% were opened, but the closures derived from the limitations decreed by the countries of origin due to the increase in the pandemic forced them to cancel weddings ”.

The also Director of Operations of the Gloria Thalasso & Hotels group admits that in his four establishments, distributed between Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, the 40 planned were canceled, more than 550,000 euros of lost income. And the expectations for 2021 are not the best. Right now, only four scheduled links. “The first half of this year is going to be worse than the second half of 2020. We have fewer tourists in the Canary Islands from January to March than we had from June to December last year.” A bleak outlook that not only affects the hotels where weddings were hosted. “All the parallel industry of musicians, florists, hairdressers or transporters is dead,” he says.

A reference establishment in the celebration of weddings in Gran Canaria is the Hotel Santa Catalina Royal Hideaway. Óscar Lacalle, is its Commercial Director, and says that after the reform carried out by the Barceló group in 2019, it increased its attractiveness as a place to host this type of celebration, but that he saw how the pandemic affected him “head-on”. Of the 35 weddings planned in 2020 they were only able to celebrate half a dozen. By 2021, they hope to be able to host about 15 starting in the middle of the year, when they expect the restrictions due to the pandemic to ease.

A sector, in figures

Billing. The average billing for a wedding is between 15,000 and 20,000 euros, according to data from the Association of Wedding Professionals of the Canary Islands, APBC.

Drop. 2020 registered only between 10% and 20% of the slightly more than 7,000 planned links, which represented an equivalent decrease in revenue compared to the 110 million expected.

Uncertainty. Industry professionals regret that the lack of certainty caused by the pandemic has made many couples decide to postpone their links, not to 2021, but to 2022.

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