More than 2.1 million couples get married in the United States annually with an average wedding cost approaching $25,000, according to WeddingReport.com. In turn, once-in-a-lifetime over-the-top honeymoons are great revenue opportunities for travel advisors. So, Travel Agent asked top travel advisors about tips for marketing, selling and servicing these honeymoon travel bookings.
Carve Out Adequate Time: When selling honeymoons, “I find myself spending more time than with the average leisure traveler,” says Stephanie Reiner, owner and travel advisor, For the Love of Traveling in Atlanta, GA; that’s an independent affiliate of Largay Travel, a Virtuoso member. Reiner points out that the honeymoon is often the first time a couple is making a significant financial decision together, “so, they often have preconceived expectations and travel styles which have never been discussed before.”
Also, Reiner advocates allotting time for follow-up “discovery sessions” so the couple can collaborate and review current COVID conditions that can affect their initial request. The goal? Reiner says it’s to create “a win-win list of objectives so we can all start together on the same page.”
Offer Private Pools: When talking to potential honeymoon clients, vividly paint a picture. “I tell them to imagine themselves two days after the wedding on an island with their own private pool and a view of the ocean, and that all the stress of the last 18 months will be a distant memory,” says Carol Nunnery, franchise owner and vacation specialist, Dream Vacations, Cape Girardeau, MO.
During this pandemic era, accommodations with private pools are a hot trend. “Having that extra level of privacy and space in not needing to go to the larger resort pools has been a much bigger request,” says Ashley Les, a luxury travel advisor with Protravel International of the Global Travel Collection, New York City.
Make It Personal: “Really listen to the bride and groom and customize their honeymoon or destination wedding to what their needs or dreams are, not their best friend’s or neighbor’s,” stresses Kathy Brancifort, president, First Class Travel, an independent affiliate of the Uniglobe Travel Center, Deptford, NJ.
Similarly, Christy Scannell, travel designer and owner, Dream Vacations, San Diego, CA, says that “it’s important to listen to clients but this is especially key for honeymooners. Not everyone wants a room full of rose petals or a week on the beach.”
Temper Client Misperceptions: It’s also critical to recommend destinations based on a combination of client desires and the advisor’s first-hand expertise. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone gung-ho about going somewhere and realizing it’s nothing like they thought it to be,” says Esther Klijn, curator of luxury travel experiences, CIRE Travel / Tzell Travel Group of the Global Travel Collection, New York City. “My favorite was a lovely woman who was set on Fiji for her honeymoon, only to learn that there are no elephants on the island.”
Use Good Flight Sense: Look for a honeymoon destination with convenient or direct air options for the couple and, if possible, most of the guests. Also, “I never advise a client to travel the day after a wedding,” emphasizes Nunnery. She says a minimum of two days is needed, as if the couple is worried about making a 6 a.m. flight the next day, they can’t enjoy the wedding day celebration.
During this pandemic era, accommodations with private pools are a hot trend. // Photo: 4FR/Getty Images
Expand Your Mindset: “Avoid thinking exclusively of young newlyweds, but consider other markets, such as couples who never got a big wedding or didn’t go on their original honeymoon,” says Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative. Also look at elopements, vow renewals and second weddings.
“We have also seen a trend of ‘Buddymoons,' couples inviting another couple to join them on their honeymoon to keep the wedding celebration rolling,” says Garcia. Today’s honeymooners are often older and well-traveled, adds Scannell: “I’ve sent honeymooners on an African safari to a Thai cooking school and glamping in Peru.”
Avoid Being too Hard Sell: Nichole Patrick, owner of Traverse the Earth Travel, an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, Blairsville, GA, says to “avoid being too ‘salesy’ while still showing your value.” If the advisor has a personal experience with a particular resort, share your excitement for them to experience it as “it will be contagious.”
However, Patrick says there is a fine line between being sharing knowledge and being too forceful in your sales tactics. “We’ve all experienced that car salesman who talks a little bit too much about every little feature on a vehicle versus the salesman who shares his love for a brand that has treated him well over the years,” she says. “It makes a difference.”
Pamper and Please: Lisa Deal of Deal Travel and Cruises, an independent affiliate of the Uniglobe Travel Center, Savannah, MO, recommends adults-only resorts for honeymooners, and suggests advisors book a deluxe, private shuttle “so it starts off on a good note.” Deal also suggests advisors discover whether a couple wants action and adventure, or they just want to chill. For example, “I don’t want to send them to Breathless if they are more of an El Dorado Maroma couple.”
Don’t Sell Down: One basic honeymoon sales pitfall? Don’t sell from your own wallet, as it’s amazing how much couples will spend on a once-in-a-lifetime experience such as a honeymoon. Identify what they can afford and present the options. “Never sell down,” stresses Deal. “Most honeymooners will spend extra for a very nice resort. It’s not that I want them to spend more. It’s because I want them to have a great honeymoon.”
Stay Connected: To build anticipation and confidence with the couple, Reiner sends clients news and articles about the destination, details about health facilities nearby and updates on testing and travel requirements. She maintains contact with her clients while they’re on the honeymoon and loves having a personalized wedding surprise awaiting them upon arrival.
Christy Scannell says she has sent honeymooners on an African safari or glamping in Peru. // Photo: lovelypeace/Getty Images
Deliver the Wow: Lauren Doyle, executive vice president of The Travel Mechanic, a member of Ensemble Travel Group, Raleigh, NC, tells Travel Agent: “I have planned a surprise honeymoon where I sent a package to the bride and groom who opened it right after the cake cutting and they found out where they were going on their honeymoon the next day. They recorded the whole thing and will have that fun memory for years to come.”
Cultivate Realistic Expectations: “Honestly, it is important to let them [the clients] know my expectations of them too as that benefits us both,” says Deal. “They need to promote me to others, so I get those sales as well.”
It’s also advantageous to not give out too much information during the initial consultation, believes Karen Rose, travelers’ consultant, Legendary Travel by Karen, a Signature Travel Network member. Advisor opinions on charging fees varies, but Rose believes in an upfront fee and sharing that with clients: “If you give out the information without a fee you set yourself up for them booking on their own.”
Follow-Up for the Future: “Now, more than ever, follow-up is imperative,” says Reiner, as is “getting first-hand feedback on each destination,” so the advisor can plan the couple’s future travel and help other couples with future honeymoon travel.