A multi-billion dollar industry, romance travel is a niche in bloom this—and indeed every—June. As the market becomes more crowded, insiders at the Travel MarketPlace and World Romance Travel conferences in Toronto discussed what’s hot this year.
The Caribbean is king
With its beautiful sunsets over romantic beaches, affordable prices, and relatively short travel times, the Caribbean is still the “it” spot for destination weddings. But it’s not just about the beach any more—it’s about the experience of the local culture.
“By infusing weddings with unique aspects of Caribbean culture, you give couples a chance to experience something they wouldn’t get if they had their wedding at home,” said Marsha-Ann Donaldson-Brown, director of weddings and romance for Sandals Resorts International. Whether it’s through the menu or the music of a steel-drum band, playing up the Caribbean culture makes a wedding here a unique and different experience from one at home.
Millennials want bragging rights
Fueling the industry’s rapid growth, the trend among Millennials is for something bigger, better, and more lavish that shows up well in social media. One panelist noted that 25% to 40% of all Millennial weddings take place away from home.
“They want to one-up their friends,” said Laurie Keith, president and founder of Romantic Planet Vacations. That means better gifts, better tours, and a better rehearsal dinner.
Once again, the focus is on unique. Where you may think sunset on the beach is beautiful, it’s been done; Keith said the latest trend is to hold the wedding at sunrise instead.
Gone are the days when a room upgrade and a cookie-cutter package will cut it. Today, our hotels and resorts are catering to couples by helping them craft itineraries tailored to their personal interests.
It starts with a FAM
As with any important trip, the best way to sell is from personal experience, said Ed Cotton, chairman of WTRC. Going on FAM trips and learning the ins and outs of each resort is key to matching couples with the perfect wedding at the perfect property to bring their dream to life. Cotton said aggressive FAMs tour resorts from 8:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night, but they are the best way for agents to get a first-hand look at what they’re suggesting to clients.
Look out for specialist programs, which will offer FAMs based on tracked bookings, like Trinidad and Tobago’s Travel Agent Special Program.
Honeymoons are moving to multiple locations
The mindset of newlyweds has changed; there’s no time for lying around, not even on your honeymoon, it appears. A new survey by Westin Hotels & Resorts reports that the trend in honeymoons is to include multiple destinations.
The number of couples visiting more than one destination has jumped from 35% to 70% as people try to make the most of their vacation time. “We see a growing number of couples pairing resort and city experiences, like Vancouver and Whistler, San Francisco and Hawaii, or Beaver Creek and Denver,” Westin vice president of brand management Bob Jacobs.
The study, conducted by StudyLogic, polled 4,060 people in a relationship or marriage with incomes between $50,000 and $500,000 across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
“Gone are the days when a room upgrade and a cookie-cutter package will cut it,” he said. “Today, our hotels and resorts are catering to couples by helping them craft itineraries tailored to their personal interests.”
Newlyweds want adventure and wellness, too
An active traveler used to eating healthy and working out at the gym is not going to change habits even on vacation, the Westin survey found. Travelers are 1.5 times more likely to choose a vacation involving the outdoors, and nearly twice as likely to hit the slopes, as in the past. They want that perfect balance between activities and relaxation.
“Westin concierge teams are seeing honeymooners who are requesting everything from hiking and mountain biking, to surfing and scuba diving, to fly fishing, healthy cooking classes, and more,” Jacobs said, noting that 40% of the survey respondents went on a run during their honeymoon.
Travel professionals “can work directly with concierge teams to create custom honeymoon itineraries that not only reflect the destination’s offerings, but truly reflect the couple’s personal interests,” he said.
Zackary Leblanc-Amato, a destination wedding specialist at Liz Moore Destination Weddings in British Colombia, said he is seeing a trend among his clients staying at all-inclusives to get off the property and explore local culture more. “So many travelers are enjoying all-inclusives not only once a year, but two or three times a year,” he said. “So they want to do something a little different.”
In the end, the point is that “a happy client is a repeat client, and a repeat client is a referral,” Cotton said.