Weddings are increasingly destination weddings and the travel agent’s role in the event is more crucial than ever. Nothing brings clarity to these trips of a lifetime as a qualified and knowledgeable agent guiding engaged couples through the myriad prices and “free” weddings that are offered worldwide.
Most couples planning a destination wedding are not yet familiar with the expertise available on guidance and destination selection, or the numerous ways that you, the travel agent, can make life so much easier for them. That only approximately 37 percent use an agent shows how much of this growing business lies untapped.
Yes, today’s couples are more budget conscious—after all, a great majority now has to pay for their wedding. Nothing puts a damper on a fantasy as having to use your own resources to make it a reality.
You know your destination, you know the properties and you have developed a fantastic working relationship with your suppliers. Your roster is packed with information that can only come from expert knowledge of that particular country. Why not showcase your expertise at all events, utilize the social networks, be part of like-minded groups, and work with your organization to continually update the public on why a qualified travel agent is crucial in travel planning?
How do you gain more from awareness? If you travel a great deal or know about events, special deals/promotions and happenings, then write a blog, newsletter, or article for your local newspaper. Tie up with a radio station and websites promoting romance, and again, use social networks (Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, etc.). Do make sure the governments and hotels include you on their websites and that you post information at your place of worship, in your community and at the local jewelry store, florist, etc.
You would be amazed that there are still couples who do not understand the benefit of using a travel agent. And it is important to differentiate your role as a qualified travel agent versus a wedding planner. Be very clear to your couples on your services. As a travel agent booking a destination wedding, you will work with your suppliers within the country (hotel, wedding planners) to streamline the process and make sure everything is according to the budget and wishes of the couple.
If you also combine wedding planning services, let your clients know that you cannot enter a country without first obtaining the necessary work permits. Few destinations provide such a permit when they have qualified local planners to do the work. Keep a roster of the best in the industry, and one that best mirrors your working habits.
A destination wedding is not about the couple alone; remember friends and families, too. You will want to design a special package/format so that it is a seamless operation for the entire group. Do send out updates to all registered guests on all aspects of the destination/hotel—weather, currency, arrival, things to do, where to shop and places to visit. A nice touch is to work with a local jewelry/perfume shop that can provide coupons for your clients.
According to the Wedding Report, couples are booking further out from their wedding date and average spending is getting higher. Sales-wise, there is much less “price shopping” than in the past couple of years—if the bride wants it, she wants it and isn’t digging in to maximize value as she did in the past. Brides and grooms now select more expensive destinations for their weddings. The number of guests has also increased substantially and they request expanded vacation options to other areas. Honeymoons have become more exotic and longer in duration.
As with all things, some people see the glass half full, others see it half empty. It is for you to aggressively look to new markets to increase your bottom line.
Jacqueline Johnson, CTC, is president/CEO of Global Bridal Group (www.GlobalBridalGroup.com), a media company that provides guidance on bridals and honeymoons through interactive target marketing.