When it comes to finding good prospects for honeymoons and destination weddings, travel advisors say success is all about great marketing, having a good confidence level and showcasing the advisor’s expertise in planning these once-in-a-lifetime travel events.
Specializing in both destination weddings and honeymoons for discerning travelers is Kathy Brancifort, president, First Class Travel, an independent affiliate of Uniglobe Travel Center, Deptford, NJ. From Brancifort’s perspective, “bridal shows are still successful” in finding destination wedding and honeymoon clients, but “the key is follow-up.” Her agency has participated in virtual bridal shows and community events too.
Brancifort also suggests “working with local bridal shops and other professionals in the wedding business, too” — keeping in mind that “many traditional wedding shows have been cancelled recently.” Other advisors also advocate getting good prospects via social media engagement, search engine optimization and client referral programs.
“Hands down, online” is the best way to get new clients, believes Lauren Doyle, executive vice president of The Travel Mechanic, a member of Ensemble Travel Group, Raleigh, NC. “With the pandemic, engaged couples are forced to take the planning virtual,” she stresses. She also points out that there are “so many different types of brides out there so it’s important to first decide who your ideal destination wedding bride or groom is.
“Research where they hang out and go there, whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Clubhouse or LinkedIn,” says Doyle. “Pick your preferred form of social media and start creating relationships.” While mingling virtually is different, she says it’s important to engage, educate and then ask for the sale.
Nichole Patrick, owner of Traverse the Earth Travel, an independent agency in the Avoya Network, Blairsville, GA, is also highly active on social media with her own business Facebook page, a Facebook group she created focused on selling the Caribbean (with a strong focus on all-inclusive resorts), and her business Instagram account. The key to being noticed on social media is to stay active, she believes. “The algorithms are complicated but having a steady stream of informational and interactive posts helps keep you on your followers’ feeds,” Patrick says.
It’s important for destination wedding and honeymoon advisors to know how their clients met and how the marriage proposal was made. // Photo: leonovo/Getty Images
As with many advisors, Lisa Deal of Deal Travel and Cruises, an independent affiliate of Uniglobe Travel Center, Savannah, MO, has found that “word of mouth is actually the biggest way I receive business for destination wedding and honeymoon sales,” although from time to time, she’s used Facebook to spotlight a destination.
Unlike some experts we interviewed, though, Deal says that it’s odd, but she hasn’t found bridal shows to be very beneficial. “So many times, the people who attend already have their honeymoon booked and are there for the freebies,” she notes. “The flip side of that, [though,] is that if you even get a few bookings from one, that’s a good thing,” although she acknowledges that over the years, she’s backed off these shows.
Most advisors say word of mouth is critical and the advisor’s reputation is everything. So, stay plugged in, know and talk with others and create a nice network of future customers. “Your circle of influence is probably bigger than you think,” Patrick suggests. “When you leave a tip in a restaurant or for the delivery guy, leave a business card also. Find community boards to pin a card to. Chat up the pharmacy tech that affects you when you pick up a prescription. You get the idea.”
And, of course, tap into host, franchise or consortia tools or referrals. Steve Nicolet, owner of Nicolet & Associates Global Travel Services, an independent agency in the Avoya Network, Poinciana, FL, finds most of his leads through his host agency’s leads, networking, referrals and his independent agency’s own website.
Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager, Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., says “begin with the end in mind and promote to your customers that you are an expert in the field of destination weddings and honeymoons.” He says most consumers simply don’t know that a travel advisor has access to working with destinations and resorts and that advisors can thus take the stress out of the destination wedding planning.
He, too, recommends strong social posts and targeted emails as a “great mechanism to market.” And Daly says advisors can find good clients by partnering with local businesses who focus on wedding-type products including shops that sell bridal gowns, rent tuxedos or create floral displays.
Advising travel sellers to “refresh their couple-centric marketing” to achieve good destination wedding leads is Caroline Belgrave, business development manager at Nexion Travel Group. This romance travel expert says to take stock of what clients are saying, because “you may find yourself with two audiences — couples that want to plan a domestic destination wedding and those that want to travel abroad for a destination wedding.”
This year and moving forward, some prospects may still be ready to travel to the other side of the world, while others are more comfortable close to home. “Either way, don’t push couples into the traditional concept of a destination wedding, and keep in mind that a domestic destination wedding is still a beautiful escape as well so don’t discount the opportunity,” Belgrave emphasizes.
In addition, Belgrave recommends: “Go virtual. Invite industry, destination and wedding professionals to join you for a live Q&A for couples. Select the right social platform where your ideal couple is still doing research and dreaming of their perfect wedding experience.”
From another perspective, “my best tip for selling honeymoons is to just offer help,” says Caty Sacco, travel consultant, Quinwell Travel, Wellesley, MA, noting that prospects are often overwhelmed in planning a destination wedding or honeymoon, particularly with the overload of information online. She finds clients mostly through referrals and social media.
A setup for a mountain wedding in Ashville. Caroline Belgrave says, “Domestic destination wedding is still a beautiful escape so don’t discount the opportunity.” // Photo: Mary Tron/Getty Images
“Once someone I’m connected with on social media gets engaged, I’ll reach out to them a few months later offering to take some stress off their hands,” Sacco says, acknowledging that consistently posting on Instagram may be tiring but it’s essential.
Karen Rose, travelers’ consultant, Legendary World by Karen, a member of the Signature Travel Network, Anacortes, WA, reports her prospects come from word-of-mouth referrals, wedding shows and social media. “Selling myself is the key for my clients,” she stresses, noting that people want to hire a professional, but also someone they trust. So, get to know clients from the first consultation. Ask how they met and how the marriage proposal was made, as well as share advisor travel experiences.
Talk with any host agency, franchise group or consortia about resources they may have for focused marketing or lead tools. “Capturing the data allows the agent to slice and dice important milestones such as recording engagements or anniversary dates, allowing the marketing system to recognize what would be a good fit,” says Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative.
For the future? Volunteer in the community and consider youth-focused programs. Be a scout leader, assist with church teen outings or coach a youth sports team. It’s a great way to meet parents and other adults, but the kids will be adults too in a few years. If they become engaged, they may turn to someone they know and trust to plan a destination wedding or design their perfect honeymoon.