The “dare to be different” trend led by Millennials is driving the growth of destination weddings. According to research from industry experts, one in four couples today have a destination wedding, which amounts to more than 350,000 each year – that’s good news for travel agents looking to build their business in this market. What’s even better news is that collaboration can be the best method for capturing these clients.
A recent seminar entitled, “Collaboration: The Road to Success,” hosted at Travel MarketPlace West in Vancouver, educated travel advisors on the profitability potential within this market, especially when a romance travel agent joins forces with a destination wedding planner. The advantages are not only meaningful, they are profitable.
Here are some facts and tips about the destination wedding market, as well as helpful advice from seminar moderators Monica Caesar, owner and destination wedding planner from Aisle Plan Your Day; and her partner, Camille Jocsak, travel agency owner of Planned 2 Perfection.
Numbers are lucrative.
Sixty percent of destination couples are paying for the wedding themselves and the average budget for the wedding alone is $28,000 – that doesn’t include the guests. What’s more, today’s destination wedding couples have dual salaries and are a bit older than traditional brides and grooms, giving them more discretionary income. And don’t forget that the wedding location is not necessarily the honeymoon spot. More often than not, these couples want to move onto another destination after their time celebrating with family has come to an end.
Stress-free travel is fundamental.
When dealing with families, narrow your focus to locations that are easy to get to. Consider children, adults with mobility issues, and the distance from the airport to the hotel. But, don’t rule out Europe, as spots like Italy and France are joining sun and sand destinations that once monopolized the destination wedding hot list. Remember: these clients don’t want a cookie cutter experience, they want a personal one. Most of all they want to be reassured that you have all the stressful parts covered.
Where to begin?
When partnering with a destination wedding planner, let them qualify the client on their vision first. Once the location is finalized, always check availability before securing a booking date. Then don’t be afraid to collaborate. “So many travel agents miss out because they think they are giving a portion of their business away to a wedding planner,” said Jocsak. “It doesn’t take away your business. You are now getting into a sector that you don’t know and this is actually going to build your business and your client base.”
For example, some destinations have residency requirements (such as you must reside in France for 30 days prior to being legally wed there), so this is where an educated wedding planner can make all the difference. “One-stop shopping is a huge convenience for these couples. When you collaborate with a planner and you have great systems in place, they know you are an expert,” said Caesar.
Use your resources.
Participate in wedding familiarization trips, not just fam trips. According to Caesar and Jocsak, these are 100 percent specific to the destination weddings market and will open your eyes to what can and cannot be done. Instead of a generic hotel tour, destination wedding fams will typically provide views of up to 7 different wedding setups and give specifics on the allowance of extras like beach barbecues and fireworks. Also, most resorts have their own romance department – make them your first point of contact.
And pay attention to webinars on destination weddings, especially if you want to focus on a particular destination or area of expertise. Last but not least, work with on-site tour operators as a point of contact. They are usually happy to help with details and they have a lot of knowledge to share.
High rebooking rate.
Hosting a successful destination wedding can pay off in spades, as engaged couples are often guests, and thus, potential new clients. “I can tell you that out of every destination wedding that I have done, before the week is out, I’ve booked four more,” said Jocsak, who often accompanies her wedding groups so she can do something memorable with them, like take them off property to a local hot spot. A great destination wedding can leave an impressionable mark.
Know your worth.
If this is your first time planning a destination wedding, be sure to read up on the rules for groups versus weddings. Deposits are often different, as are the perks that are available to wedding parties. Most importantly, travel agents are entitled to different commissions with destination weddings, so know the benefits and have a solid contract in place to back it all up.