Expo to promote lake destination weddings

Cake designer Clare Pennell (left) and florist Jenny Clark have organised a Wanaka wedding expo...
Cake designer Clare Pennell (left) and florist Jenny Clark have organised a Wanaka wedding expo on Monday to promote the resort's booming wedding sector. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Spurred by the continuing growth of Wanaka's wedding sector, cake designer Clare Pennell and florist Jenny Clark have organised a ''Weddings in Wanaka'' expo, targeting the hundreds of prospective brides and grooms among the resort's large holiday population.

The expo, this Monday, January 7, will feature about 20 Wanaka exhibitors, and is the first time such an event has showcased exclusively local wedding suppliers. Timing it during Wanaka's peak holiday period was also a new approach.

''Many [expos] are held in May when it suits the suppliers, but there are no visitors in town so it never really works,'' Miss Pennell said.

The women's aim is to market Wanaka as a wedding destination, and promote its rapidly expanding wedding industry.

''It's going to boom. It's just going to get bigger here because it's such a special place,'' Miss Clark said.

''And I think it's very trendy at the moment as well to have destination weddings, as opposed to just staying in your home town,'' Miss Pennell added.

''[Brides and grooms are] treating it like a holiday, both for the wedding party and their guests.''

In her six years working as a Wanaka wedding florist, Miss Clark had seen a significant increase in the number of wedding venues and suppliers.

''Wanaka's wedding market is continually growing, and we feel the more we support and market our local suppliers, the bigger it will get,'' she said.

A large percentage of the women's clients come from Australia, and many are expatriate New Zealanders who return home to get married.

Lake Wanaka Tourism (LWT) general manager James Helmore agreed weddings were ''going gangbusters'' in Wanaka.

He understood there were between 200 to 300 weddings in the resort each year, although it was difficult to pinpoint exact figures.

''It's one that doesn't have a lot of good statistics around it in one place,'' he said.

''We don't have a strong picture of the wedding sector, rather a series of comments and figures from a number of wedding venues and wedding providers.''

Mr Helmore was aware of one recent weekend when there were three weddings in Wanaka and cafes had been left struggling to cope with the demand.

With weddings making use of much of Wanaka's tourism offering - such as commercial accommodation, helicopters and restaurants - the wedding sector was one of LWT's seven key strategies for delivering business into the Wanaka region.

''We're just starting to push this message now that we have our other strategies more bedded in and will be working to co-ordinate Wanaka's wedding offering where we can create value for the businesses providing services.''

Weddings were important for Wanaka as they provided compelling reasons for people to visit, and wedding guests tended to visit over a longer peak period than standard visitors, he said.

''They also bring friends and family together and with social media so powerful now, provide strong promotional benefits ... as well as planting the seed for repeat visitation.''

The Weddings in Wanaka expo is on this Monday, January 7, from 10am to 4pm, at the Lake Wanaka Centre. Gold coin entry fees will be donated to Canlive charitable trust, a Wanaka charity supporting patients living with cancer.

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