We interviewed top Caribbean travel specialists about the region’s hottest honeymoon and wedding travel trends. Here are the hottest tips that Travel Agent dished out for those of you seeking to be successful in selling this lucrative niche market.
The Over-the-Water Phenomenon
The South Pacific may have perfected the over-the-water room category for decades, but its success in this market was never mainstream.
New over-the-water bungalows in both the Caribbean and Mexico, however, have opened this market up to scores of East Coast travelers, who always thought this type of accommodation was either too expensive or too far away.
“Caribbean resorts are wooing travelers with the ‘wow’ factor, creating incredible resorts and vacation experiences, including over-the-water bungalows and wedding chapels, and bars with overwater hammocks at Sandals Resorts; elaborate waterparks, family suites, special amenities for babies and kids at Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana; and headliner concert events and music festivals to attend plus opportunities for travelers to create their own rock star experiences at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana,” says Jack E. Richards, president and CEO of tour operator Pleasant Holidays.
The over-the-water room category was first introduced to the Caribbean back in 2016 by Sandals Resorts International. But it looks like Sandals could have some company soon in that market, as all-inclusive competitor AMResorts announced plans in 2017 to open a Zoëtry Resort in Aruba that features the category.
In December of 2016, Sandals announced that the much-anticipated Over-the-Water Suites at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica, were officially open and ready to be booked.
Sandals then declared in February the launch of nine new Over the Water Honeymoon Butler Bungalows at Sandals Grande St. Lucian. Finally, on December 16, Sandals announced that Sandals South Coast’s 12 new Over the Water Bungalows were open to guests.
As part of our coverage of Classic Vacations’ STAR Performer event at Dreams Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort in Mexico last year, we got the skinny on AMResort’s plans for a new Zoëtry Resort in Aruba that will include the company’s first-ever over-the-water bungalows.
Mount Cinnamon Resort & Beach Club, a seaside enclave, is one of the mid-range properties promoting Grenada as a honeymoon destination.
In fact, all of the roughly 130 rooms at the Aruba resort will be over-the-water bungalows, says Susan Lang, AMResorts’ regional sales manager for the Northeast.
Karisma Hotels & Resorts’ Palafitos — Overwater Bungalows in Mexico “are, of course, generating tremendous buzz, so we anticipate [Zoëtry Resort’s] over-the-water bungalows in Aruba will be a source of even more excitement when those open,” Scott Wiseman, president of Travel Impressions, tells Travel Agent.
Trending Caribbean Honeymoon Destinations
Just as Sandals has created buzz around the over-the-water room category in the Caribbean, it is also responsible for creating excitement over the island of Tobago, which has always served as a two-day getaway from sister island Trinidad, but now may be able to stand on its own as a viable option for a four- or five-day honeymoon.
And that’s because Sandals’ most loyal advisors and clients were most likely paying attention when the company issued a statement back in October announcing official plans to open both a Sandals Resort and a Beaches Resort on Tobago. It will be interesting to see if Sandals’ presence on the island will influence increased airlift to the destination, as it has done in other destinations like Grenada.
Also, as part of our recent Caribbean trends feature, Caribbean experts, including Wiseman and Dave Ferran, head of sales for Classic Vacations, hinted smaller islands such as Grenada and Nevis are picking up steam heading into the new year.
Ferran says there is also interest in St. Kitts, with the recently opened Park Hyatt St. Kitts, while Wiseman points to St. Lucia as an island that continues to perform well, propped up by high-end resorts such as Cap Maison, Jade Mountain, Rendezvous, The BodyHoliday and Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort — all excellent options for honeymoons with a side of health and wellness.
Grenada’s profile has grown considerably, with Spice Island Beach Resort catering to the affluent market, and mid-range properties such as Mount Cinnamon Resort & Beach Club and Coyaba Beach Resort attracting value-seekers.
“For the Caribbean and Mexico, we are seeing a large amount of clients interested in doing split stays in St. Lucia, Antigua and Barbados…usually avoiding some of the larger all-inclusive chains and wanting more local and boutique options,” says Mitch Toren of Trip Guy Travel.
“Honeymoon travel continues to be more and more about unique experiences than just about the resort,” he adds. “Fewer people are interested in just sitting on the beach. Great new tours in St. Lucia continue to get people to see more and more of the destinations they are visiting.”
The recently opened Park Hyatt St. Kitts, according to Dave Ferran, head of sales for Classic Vacations, has helped in developing travelers’ interest in the island of St. Kitts.
Bachelor / Bachelorette Parties
When it comes to planning an excellent bachelor or bachelorette party, the destination most advisors pointed to in the Caribbean was the Dominican Republic. Terrah Van Meter, an advisor with Legacy Travel, notes the Dominican Republic, specifically Punta Cana, is home to the hottest hotel brand in the Caribbean for these types of celebrations.
“The Breathless and Secrets Resorts are owning the bachelor / bachelorette market right now,” she says. “They market it well and have themed parties that make it an easy sell.”
Wiseman says the Dominican Republic also attracts this type of celebration travel mainly because of the products offered and the accessibility.
“The Caribbean is well-suited to weddings and bachelor / bachelorette parties in general, but Dominican Republic stands out as a leader in this market due to its accessibility from a variety of U.S. gateways, affordability of airfare, and diverse range of product,” Wiseman adds.