The coronavirus pandemic, with its restrictions, social distance, number restrictions and canceled flights, has left the Portuguese wedding sector in tatters and fears that many companies may not survive.
Portugal has marketed itself not only as a popular honeymoon destination in recent years, but also as a destination for that dream wedding.
Just over a two-hour flight from most European destinations, the warm, sunny climate, the sun-kissed beaches, the beautiful boutique hotels, the stunning seaside resorts, the dramatic and varied inland scenery, and the cheap stays make Portugal the perfect hitched place.
However, the many companies planning this special day and attracting couples from all over Europe are in trouble as people either cancel their 2020 weddings or plan to postpone them until the pandemic is over for good.
The initial lockdown may have hit the sector hard, resulting in many wedding events being postponed or rebooked, but the lifting of some restrictions in the summer allowed some weddings to proceed in the presence of some guests and family members.
However, since October the many sub-segments that make up the business have come to a complete standstill, and the outlook for the segment making it to the altar in the second quarter of this year is hardly a bouquet of roses that has booked many weddings for Easter has now been canceled with Portugal’s second state of emergency, while large festive gatherings have been canceled again, and possibly through September.
“We know the number of weddings has decreased overall in the last 40 or 50 years, but 2020 was the worst year ever. More than 80% of weddings have either been canceled or postponed, ”says António Brito, CEO of Exponoivos, a yearbook trade fair for weddings in Portugal.
“Of the 35,000 weddings organized annually over the past few years, 25,000 or more have been canceled or postponed until the pandemic increased,” says Brito.
He says it’s a situation that doesn’t look good in the near future either. When asked if he believed there was still time this year to hold the 25,000 or so weddings that did not take place in 2020, he said, “There is still time, yes. It’s just that we don’t know when. “
António Brito explains that with this high level of uncertainty, “panic has set in for the wedding sector” and he urges couples to tie the knot, not to cancel, but to “wait a little longer”, maybe two or three months. until the pandemic is over. But he admits that it’s difficult to get that message across.
“We have already seen some cancellations from April. The first quarter of the year is usually weak in terms of weddings, but from spring onwards they build up to September and this year we are already seeing some reluctance from engaged couples that their wedding will not take place, so they cancel it ” says Brito, adding that he expects the situation for the segment to get worse until it gets better.
Church weddings in Portugal usually take place on a Saturday, with the spring and summer months being the most popular. However, the bride and groom can choose other days and everything is possible from a logistical and organizational point of view.
According to António Brito, the big problem for the industry is whether companies can hold out for another three, four or five months, and does not hide the fact that “several companies had to close their doors” and “many more will do so”.
The wedding segment is very fragmented, with around 45 subsegments suffering from very specific difficulties, but there is one common denominator: they cannot work and sell their services.
For example, many weddings in Portugal take place in stately housing estates or “quintas” and have had to invest a lot of money in order to comply with Portuguese health regulations.
These wedding venues are now empty, and the companies who run them can no longer pay for that investment. The same goes for boutique hotels in quaint areas that have twice been hit by tourist shortages and events such as weddings.
And the other factor is that there have only been five people attending events since October and government aid, other than layoffs, has so far resulted in zero, the Exponoivos CEO concludes.
More business news at www.essential-business.pt
By CHRIS GRAEME / Essential Business