|Placa de Catalunya (Catalonia Square), Barcelona: The Spanish city offers honeymooners both urban and beach experiences.|
Not surprisingly, given that their ages range from 20s to early 30s, Millennials are the prime target market for honeymoons, as well as for trips to celebrate engagements or have a bachelor/bachelorette party. Interestingly, this younger demographic also travels more often for vow renewals. With that in mind, we reached out to some top-selling Millennial travel agents, including several of Travel Agent’s “30Under30” advisors, for their take on the what, how and where of selling honeymoons not only to their peers, but also across the romance spectrum. Here are some of their thoughts on the subject, along with a few observations and suggestions of our own.
Suggest Two Honeymoons
Rebecca Norrbom of Holiday Cruises & Tours in Las Vegas tells Travel Agent that she’s been hearing a lot of the word “mini-moon” lately to basically describe a short, more affordable honeymoon that newlyweds can take while they save up for a more elaborate dream vacation.
“Couples may not be able to afford their dream honeymoon immediately after paying for a wedding,” she says. “I am seeing more and more of the brides and grooms footing the majority of the bills. A mini-moon allows the couple to get away on a short two- to three-night [vacation] while giving time to save for their dream honeymoon. Leveraging consortia hotel partnerships and amenities is a great way to prove your value during the mini-moon.”
Start Selling LGBT Weddings/Honeymoons
“LGBT is a growing market segment and it’s only going to get bigger in the coming years. Not many agencies specialize in working with the LGBT community; why not you?” asks Andrey Zakharenko of Always Travel in San Francisco. “Start with looking at your local market and figure out a way to reach them. Then sit down and make a list of destinations, hotels, cruise lines that are LGBT friendly, highlight those that are taking the extra step to make [these travelers] feel welcome.”
Note: During a panel discussion on LGBT travel trends and patterns at last September’s Travel Industry Exchange, LoAnn Halden, communications director for the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), told the agents in attendance, “The biggest evolution is that we are recognized as a viable market now,” adding that this market is estimated to be worth about $200 billion a year.
Hot Destinations/Trip Types
While Bora Bora gets a lot of attention from romantics, Jeremy Mariette, of Amphibia Travel in Minneapolis, says clients shouldn’t look past Fiji, mainly for its incredible value.
“Every list of popular honeymoon locations includes Bora Bora, but most people overlook the amazing value of Fiji,” says Mariette. “In Fiji, you can stay on one of the many small islands in a private bure just steps from the ocean, while getting completely spoiled and pampered for far less than the islands in French Polynesia.
“Plus, in Fiji, there are many great adults-only options that include all of your meals, and some places like Namale Resort and Spa on Savusavu even include wine, beer, alcohol and all of your activities as well. With its textbook South Pacific beauty and feel, combined with some of the nicest people in the world, Fiji is the perfect place for a relaxing honeymoon.”
Norrbom says she is seeing a shift toward more FIT itineraries, honeymooners wanting to incorporate more than one city and looking for authentic experiences, adventure and local food options.
|“Breathtaking scenery” is one reason why Costa Rica is gaining in popularity with honeymooners,” says agent Rebecca Norrbom.|
“Costa Rica and Iceland are gaining in popularity,” she says. “These destinations offer a great mix of romance, breathtaking scenery — necessary for that perfect honeymoon profile pic, with tons of options for activities. Eyes light up when I mention hot springs after a day of hiking or zip lining.”
Kathryn Boydston Rollins of CSB Travel, LLC in Houston, just enjoyed her own destination wedding at Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN. She finds overall, however, that her clients show the most enthusiasm for the Caribbean and Italy to celebrate their honeymoons.
“I receive frequent requests for St. Lucia, Anguilla and Turks & Caicos,” says Boydston. “Mukul Beach Golf and Spa on Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast has hit my ‘It List’ and is all of the talk among clients my age.”
Think Outside the Box
Zakharenko says it’s important to consider pitching some places that they didn’t even consider.
“Why not surprise your clients with an unexpected destination, maybe one that is a great value at the moment such as Turkey or Russia? Turkey is so much more than just Istanbul,” he says. “They have Izmir, Cappadocia and the beach meccas of Europe at Antalya and Bodrum. Your clients love sales? Well Russia is still on sale and the currency is currently at an all time low against the dollar. Cities such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Sochi, the site of the 2014 Olympic winter games, offer an amazing value to your clients.”
And within their destination of choice, it’s important for agents to find an excursion that truly stands out.
“Always offer clients at least one ‘knock-their-socks-off’ excursion or activity that plays perfectly to their interests and/or gives them a look into a special part of the destination that most travelers won’t see — even if the price seems high relative to their trip cost,” says Caroline Fridley Bracewell of Easy Escapes Travel, Inc. in Atlanta. “Many travelers, especially Millennials, may not feel like they will get enough value out of their money to justify upgrading a room category or flights, but will appreciate the value of a unique and personalized experience.
|Weddings and honeymoons at Ellenborough Park in Cotswolds, England, have built-in appeal to Jane Austen enthusiasts and fans of “Downton Abbey.”|
“Offering these types of experiences,” she continues, “also encourages travel advisors to get to know more about both the clients themselves and the destinations they’re selling, versus only offering the typical tours available in a given area. In turn, expertise is further honed and closer connections forged with clients, thus allowing advisors to bring even greater value to the table.”
Marisa Costa of NEXT, a program by Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group based in New York, says that South Africa — especially Cape Town and safaris — are generally on the honeymooners’ radar, but encourages clients and fellow agents to look beyond what tourists tend to be drawn to.
“Millennials are looking for off-the-beaten-path experiences, and beautiful scenic drives like Midlands Meander and Garden Route offer a unique experience to visit small towns and enjoy the natural beauty. Cities like Durban and Johannesburg offer so much culture yet often get overlooked. Durban, with the largest Indian population outside of India feels like a mini-Miami, while Johannesburg is the epicenter of South African history and culture,” Costa says.
“These cities, along with Cape Town and the nearby winelands, make South Africa a foodie heaven, boasting some of the best restaurants and wineries in the world,” she says (It’s worth noting that 8 percent of Millennials responding to the MMGY Global 2015 Portrait of American Travelers cited “culinary/wine tasting” as the primary purpose of one or more of their vacations during the past 12 months, with older generations averaging a still-healthy 5 percent).
“There are also plenty of game reserves aside from Sabi Sands / Kruger area that often go overlooked yet provide opportunities to see some of the more rare species,” she says. “Best of all, the rand is at a low right now to the dollar, so it’s a great time to get some serious bang for your buck.”
Cruising Continues To Gain Popularity
Cruising is also getting more and more popular, according to experts we spoke to. The multiple destinations and various price points can be very appealing along with the semi-inclusiveness that cruising offers.
“I’m seeing an increase in Alaska cruises for honeymooners as well as the fact that Europe is pretty soft at the moment and cruise lines have some great promotions which are enticing those to consider a European honeymoon when originally they felt it was outside of what they could afford,” says Norrbom.
Honeymoons for Experiential Travelers
Honeymooners are evolving. Today’s newlyweds, especially but not exclusively Millennials, aren’t just heading to the closest warm-weather destination. They are traveling — and traveling far. These couples are craving destinations and experiences that haven’t been over-visited or over done by other couples. Here are our picks for honeymoon destinations that are unique and fit different styles, but are still filled with romance.
England for Romantics Seeking the Royal Treatment: Ellenborough Park is a five-star, 15th-century country manor house hotel in the Cotswolds of England. This hotel with its stone detail and manicured landscape delicately screams winter wedding ceremony and honeymoon escape (This romantic setting provides the perfect backdrop for both major events.) First, a popular choice is to hold the ceremony on the Ellenborough Park Gallery, which is filled with elegance and then host the reception along the grand fireplaces. If you could put it into a feeling, imagine a “Pride and Prejudice” vibe meets ultimate English royalty — or perhaps one might draw inspiration from the recent nuptials of Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes on TV’s “Downton Abbey.”
As for accommodations, all of the guests can stay on property with 62 bedrooms available, and there is a widely known spa on property, where each guest can relax. The wedding couple will receive the royal treatment, of course, with The Lord and Lady Wedding-moon Package, which includes access to an event planner that organizes the trip over the wedding and the honeymoon. The lovebirds will also receive a complimentary couples’ spa package and will get to participate in activities such as archery and polo during their stay. Another option is for couples who are staying at Ellenborough on their wedding night. They should book The Honeymoon Break package. This romantic offer includes a relaxing breakfast, full use of the spa, a couples massage and champagne and dinner on site.
|Robin Pope Safaris’ honeymoon locales include Pumulani, which offers 10 romantic villas overlooking Malawi’s Lake of the Stars.|
Beauty and the Beach in Barcelona: If your honeymoon couples love the urban lifestyle but also crave a beach vacation, suggest Barcelona. Not only did it top National Geographic’s list of Top 10 Beach Cities, but it also was ranked 15th among Best Cities in the World in the 2015 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Whether the newlyweds are architecture buffs, world music enthusiasts, foodies or dig a trendy nighilife scene, they’ll find what they’re looking for in Spain’s second largest city. And did we mention the mile-long Barceloneta Beach and seven other white-sand beaches that run along the city’s Mediterranean coastline. Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, we’ve been told, has a fabulous location that allows easy access to everything in the city and its rooftop bar is a perfect setting to watch the sun set and enjoy a cocktail. We also hear that the views from the Isabela Terrace at the Hotel 1898 are something special. For something more intimate and intriguing, the luxury boutique Hotel Cotton House, a member of Marriott’s luxury lifestyle Autograph Collection, opened just a year ago in a historic 19th-century building. In a nod to its former life, one room at the Cotton House still houses wooden cases filled with bolts of cotton fabric — and the hotel has a local tailor on call who will measure guests for bespoke shirts. (Matching ones for the newlywed couple, perhaps?)
Safaris for Lovestruck Adventurers: Robin Pope Safaris, known for its safaris in Zambia and Malawi, has an exciting package for those honeymooners looking to celebrate their love on safari. Couples will start by exploring Victoria Falls, then it’s off to South Luangwa and Lake Malawi. Lovebirds will take game drives through Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, where the endangered white elephant can be spotted. Guests will also visit South Luangwa National Park to see elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion and more. Note: This general itinerary can always be adjusted to fit the couple’s style.
Stanley Safari Lodge will welcome couples with a private group of chalets and balconies. During their stay, the newlyweds will have views of bush life and the spray of Victoria Falls will just be in the distance. The lodge is ideally situated for museum trips, sunset cruises, whitewater rafting and bungee jumping. Visitors will also stay at Luangwa River Camp, which is situated in the remote wilderness on elevated wooden decks, providing amazing views. The romantic getaway will be completed with the swimming pool that is sunk into the deck and linked to a waterfall.
|Couples seeking the ultimate bragging rights may wish to consider a Greenland vacation from Natural Habitat Adventures.|
The last stop is at Pumulani, located at the end of Lake Malawi or The Lake of Stars. Here, 10 villas are scattered across the hillside and come with spacious bedrooms. There is also an infinity swimming pool that couples can relax in. This honeymoon package includes local transfers, accommodations, full board, all local drinks and activities (limited selection at Stanley Lodge and no motorized water sports). Travel dates are from April to November.
Greenland for Nature-Loving Lovers: Natural Habitat Adventures, specializing in ecotourism, has just announced an expansion of the facilities at its Base Camp Greenland, located just below the Arctic Circle. This trip isn’t specially curated for honeymooners, but we think couples who want the ultimate bragging rights for creativity and extreme travel will love it. We also think this nine-day journey can be nicely combined with a greater European excursion.
During the excursion, guests will stay in safari-style tent cabins on raised platforms. Each comes with a private veranda and a view of the bay and the Greenland ice sheet. The tents are heated and come with clothing storage and an en suite dry toilet and washbasin (hot showers are in a separate bathhouse). Honeymooners should ask for the tent on the outer edge for more privacy, though, be warned, each tent has twin beds.
However, the main draw of this vacation will be the memorable experiences. The exploration begins with a half-day, whale-watching trip in the open waters of the Greenland Sea. In a large motorboat, guests will look for fin, minke, humpback whales, and seals. Along the way, guest will also see prominent icebergs that have been drifting for months or years.
Hiking is another must-do in Greenland, couples will hike into the Valley of Flowers (a romantic spot) to see the vibrant landscape filled with arctic wildflowers, granite peaks, waterfalls and lakes. Guests will see glaciers and possibly Arctic fox, loons and falcons. Other activities include sea kayaking, meetings with local Inuit and Zodiac excursions. Note: Trip leaders will usually include special touches for newlyweds like a celebratory bottle of Champagne.
Hawaii for Luxurious Love: It’s possible to experience Hawaii differently than almost all other honeymoon couples with the Amore & Aloha package from Hotel Wailea, a Relais & Châteaux property. This adults-only resort, with 72 oversized suites, a pool with cabanas and an apothecary pool bar, is on the island of Maui. The posh setting is perfect for couples seeking exclusive luxury. The package itself includes two nights in an Ocean View Suite, which, like the name suggests, has views of the Pacific. Other romantic touches include a private lanai with chaise lounges and chairs and deep soaking tub for two. Tip: These rooms are on the top and bottom floors only.
During the day, guests, using the Amore & Aloha package, will zoom around in a 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster reproduction for four hours. The car comes with an insider’s guide to Maui’s best drive-up beaches and a picnic lunch. Later, dinner for two will be held privately in the Treehouse, which is suspended among the canopies in the resort’s mango and avocado orchard. The package also includes a daily, handcrafted cocktail and an electric bike rental for two.
Hotel Tips for Targeting Millennial Newlyweds
If you do find yourself dealing with Millennials as potential honeymoon clients, it’s important, for starters, not to put all Millennials in one basket. They’re as varied as your Gen X and Baby Boomer clients. Or, as Mark Dorenfast of Altour in Los Angeles puts it: “Being under 30 is different for everyone. You can be single and focusing on a career or you can be newly married and starting a family.”
They’ll likely already have a destination in mind, but within that destination there are sure to be a variety of accommodation choices and selecting the right one can make the difference between a good honeymoon and a great one. What are the common references? Dorenfast says a hotel for Millennials must have free Wi-Fi, a 24-hour fitness center and it has to recognize loyalty.
“My goal is to guide people towards smaller, more unique properties they may not have thought of or never even knew existed,” Dorenfast tells us. “Everyone loves One&Only Palmilla [in Los Cabos]. It’s a sure thing.”
Unique is the word when it comes to Millennial travelers, whether it’s that secret gem in a far-flung destination or something that’s simply different from what all their friends are posting about on Instagram. In some cases, it just has to be different from the standard, traditional choices.
“I find that my peers who call me for travel plans prefer not to use hotels that their grandparents used, such as Hilton and Sheraton,” says Bryan Pollard of Ambassador Tours in San Francisco. “They prefer a more ‘preppy’ style hotel that appears to be more modern in its features and benefits [mainly Wi-Fi] and anything that can really let them show off their current vacation. Sometimes they choose style over location, which can be more costly in some countries. The biggest trend I see, is that of more of the boutique/smaller hotels that can really let the client get immersed in the culture.”
“In the world of Instagram, clients want vacation photos that are different from their peers,” says Laura Hanaford of The Trip Trotter, Tzell Travel in New York. “My clients are looking for more and more boutique luxury properties, like the Crosby Street Hotel in New York, where each room is decorated differently. They are open to staying in locations other than the city center and appreciate historical buildings, like the Parador [in Costa Rica].”
Aside from Wi-Fi, what’s another “got-to-have amenity?”
“When traveling to exotic tropical locations, an infinity pool is a must!” says Hanaford.
|The Amore & Aloha package at Maui’s Hotel Wailea, a Relais & Châteaux resort, offers a luxurious experiential honeymoon.|
Veering away from the big chains is certainly a habit of Millennials, but they definitely don’t want to sacrifice convenience or comfort (there’s that free Wi-Fi again). “My Millennial clients are most interested in very central hotels, but not in big chain hotels,” says Julia Jakkaraju of Journeys by Julia — Cruise Planners, San Jose, CA. “They like smaller, independent European hotels...where younger travelers from all over the world stay and where they can meet at the bar or breakfast and exchange experiences and make connections for their next trip.”
Design and a sense of place are vital to most Millennials.
“I think the Andaz brand does a great job with this and Design Hotels as well,” reports Erin Green of McCabe World Travel in McLean, VA. “It’s great to see the Design Hotels brand in Scandinavia where they were desperate for a choice in hotel product. The Thief in Oslo is a great example.”
Eric Grayson of Discover 7/Valerie Wilson Travel in New York says clients in his age range love chic boutique hotels in major cities. He cites good examples as being the Ham Yard in London, the new Line Hotel in Los Angeles, and New York's NoMad Hotel.
“Clients in my age-range value strong food and beverage and a bar/lounge scene,” he says. “These hotels have executed that to perfection.”
Hotels with big names and powerful branding (think W and SLS) are still quite popular with Millennials, but that creep toward the lesser-known hip boutique hotels is true for Natalia Chelnokova of FROSCH Private Client Services in New York as well. “For example, the Crosby Street Hotel in New York is highly praised for its movie nights and honesty bar; both are unique features nowadays,” she tells us. “Another great example is Petit Ermitage, a boutique hotel in West Hollywood, CA, which wows its guest with curated iPod playlists in each room juxtaposed by a functioning gramophone in the lobby,” says Chelnokova.
Authenticity is another necessary characteristic, and for this reason Karina Martinez of First in Service Travel in New York says her Millennial clients prefer a “more rustic, understated elegance,” requesting hotels like Amangiri, Utah; 1 Hotel South Beach, Miami; Como Shambhala Estate, Bali; and Castello di Casole in Tuscany.
Ashley Lancer of Valerie Wilson Travel also cites “boutique” and “authenticity” among her clients’ preferences, and when it comes to honeymoons, “South” is hot; as in South Africa, Southeast Asia, southern isles of Greece, southern tips of Turkey and the southern coasts of Italy. “Some of the top hotels within those places are Canaves Oia Hotel, Palazzo Avino, D-Hotel Maris, Trisara, Six Senses Yao Noi and Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai,” she says.
And of course, everybody wants the best deal they can find. Kayla Torgerson of Travel Beyond in South Wayzata, MN, says her affluent clients in their 20s and 30s are typically interested in accommodations that offer great value for money. “When I’m planning these types of trips I will often offer a circuit of properties under the same brand name. By booking a circuit these young clients still get a very high-end experience, but at a discounted rate,” says Torgerson, echoing the trend of clients in this age range looking for lodgings that are “centrally located, offer special amenities, and have local flair and personality.”
For More Info
For more tips, trends and news on the destination weddings and honeymoons front, visit the Focus Series section of Travel Agent Central (www.travelagentcentral.com), where you’ll find planners on the subject pegged to Mexico, Jamaica and the luxury travel market, as well as ones on Caribbean romance travel and celebration travel in Hawaii.