|Sandals Barbados hosts “Beautiful Beginnings” and other wedding packages.|
According to the last two Destination Weddings Studies issued by TheKnot.com, the Caribbean continues to dominate, by a healthy margin, as the most popular place for nuptials outside the continental U.S. Not taking that status for granted, the Caribbean Tourism Organization once again injected a little romance into its annual Caribbean Week New York in June. For the second year running, the region’s tourism development agency retained bridal trade show planners Wedding Salon to organize a Romance Pavilion where engaged couples seeking a romantic honeymoon or destination wedding could connect with Caribbean resorts, tourist offices and travel agents.
One indication of the scope of this target market in general comes from Travel Leaders Group’s 2014 Travel Trends Survey, in which nearly 71 percent of its agents booking destination wedding and/or honeymoon travel indicated the average revenue for those bookings is higher than their typical leisure travel booking. Additionally, 64 percent of those surveyed indicated that a minimum of 10 percent of their leisure sales is derived from serving these markets. Add to this the finding in The Knot 2014 Real Weddings Study that nearly one in four couples today opt for a destination wedding.
Of course, many hotels and resort companies have taken notice and upped their game in recent years.
Occidental Hotels & Resorts, which has two properties each in Palm Beach, Aruba and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (as well as Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia), introduced its Romance Rewards program late last year. Specifically designed for agents and wedding planners, as well as meetings organizers, it rewards the brand’s loyal partners for each wedding or wedding group booking made at select Occidental and Allegro properties. Agents and planners receive $25 for wedding bookings at Allegro Resorts, $50 at Occidental Grand Resorts, $75 at Royal Hideaway Playacar and $100 for group accommodations for weddings at Occidental Hotels & Resorts.
Iberostar Hotels and Resorts — with three all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica, six in the Dominican Republic and 10 in Mexico — sees so much potential in the destination weddings market that they have devoted an entire course to it at Travel Agent University. Iberostar’s basic “Star Wedding” package includes dedicated, onsite wedding specialist; choice of minister, judge or priest, as well as witnesses, if needed; venue set up, such as canopy, chairs and tables with white linen; champagne toast; bride’s floral bouquet and matching groom’s boutonniere; traditional white-frosted wedding cake, decorated with fresh flowers; and wedding reception dinner in a specialty restaurant. The “Silver Wedding” ups the ante with music and 10 percent discount on spa services for wedding guests, and the “Gold Wedding” throws in a cocktail hour, gift for the couple, room upgrade, late checkout, pre-nuptials hair styling for the bride and couple’s massage, and post-wedding dinner on the beach for the newlyweds. Iberostar can also customize ceremonies and receptions with its “A La Carte Weddings.”
Travel Leaders also launched a training program, Certified Honeymoon and Destination Wedding Specialist, that offers separate content paths for each specialization — one for honeymoons and one for destination weddings — with components that focus on understanding the honeymoon and destination wedding client, preferred destination knowledge and preferred supplier partnerships.
According to the romance experts at Sandals Resorts International, many couples planning destination weddings at their Luxury Included Caribbean resorts plan shorter celebrations, often over a long weekend, which is why the company made the decision to lower the minimum stay requirement of their popular and free “Beautiful Beginnings” wedding package from seven to three nights. Available at all Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts in Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Grenada or Barbados, the exclusive offer also adds more to the brands’ WeddingMoon program including a complimentary 35-minute massage for the groom and a manicure for the bride at the Red Lane Spa.
|Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Beach Resort offers Marriott’s “Worry-Free Weddings” program.|
All Sandals and Beaches Wedding Couples also receive a personal pre-travel wedding planner; a personal resort wedding planner and dedicated resort wedding team; preparation of documents; musical accompaniment; witnesses upon request; and more.
It was just over a year ago that Travel Agent was on hand for the unveiling of a new “Worry-Free Weddings” program offered exclusively by Marriott Caribbean & Latin America Resorts. Available at the brand’s collection of eight resorts in Aruba, Curacao, Grand Cayman, St. Kitts and St. Thomas, as well as in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the program plays a pivotal role in a couple’s wedding process from the initial planning stages to their time in the destination and post-nuptials, with special offers and incentives for booking a wedding within the collection.
A trend story titled “Wedded to Wellness” in a recent issue of American Spa magazine noted that, “While spas have long been places for bridal parties to enjoy pre-wedding prep and post-wedding pampering, this new spin on wedding day wellness is prime for growth, considering the number of superb spa destinations that would make for perfect wedding sites.” This is not lost on spa-centric resorts such as St. Lucia’s The Body Holiday – Le Sport, where wedding packages include a side-by-side, full-body massage for the newlyweds.
Of course, the five-star, all-inclusive offers all the accouterments that newlyweds-to-be require. They can opt for the basic “BodyHoliday Romance Wedding,” choose one of the options from the “Premium Ever After Collection,” or select individual features from each, plus extras such as a video or a steel band.
In addition to Body Holiday (and its sister resort, Rendezvous) there are several other options for weddings and honeymoons on St. Lucia, which for the eighth time was named by World Travel Awards as the “World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination.” Viceroy Sugar Beach, Jade Mountain, Stonefield Estate, The Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, Anse Chastanet, Cap Maison and The Landings may have some built-in name recognition for prospective brides and grooms if they are fans of the TV series “The Bachelor.” The show returned to St. Lucia last February and March for the final episodes of Season 18, having done likewise four years earlier, with some filming done at those resorts, among others.