On Valentine’s Day, Agents Reveal Romantic Fantasies
by Monique Burns

What’s the world’s most romantic getaway? In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, Travel Market Report asked agents specializing in honeymoons and destination weddings about the most romantic vacations ever – real and imagined – both for themselves and for their clients.

Topping the list were exotic beach vacations in spots like Bora Bora, the Seychelles and Riviera Maya, where guests unwind under the warm sun, linger over sumptuous candlelit dinners and enjoy sensuous couples massages steps from breaking surf.

For culture lovers, Europe got a couple of nods, while South Africa attracted adventurous couples.

Bora Bora, the ultimate fantasy
For their own dreamy getaway, several travel agents said Bora Bora would be the ultimate romantic locale.

“I’d head to Bora Bora or the Maldives for a couples massage and private dinner on the beach,” said Jim Augerinos, vice president of Perfect Honeymoons, a Signature agency in Tysons Corner, Va.

“I’d book an overwater bungalow at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora or at the Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives. I’d propose to my girlfriend there, have a wedding on the beach, then book an around-the-world honeymoon.”

Simply amazing
Barbara Oliver, CTA, ECC, of Romantic Journeys in Los Angeles said she and her husband would stay at the “magnificent St. Regis Bora Bora.”

“Their overwater bungalows are simply amazing and the service impeccable. A few days being pampered and then some scuba diving action would be a dream,” said Oliver, whose agency is affiliated with Vacation.com.

Mark Hennigan, co-owner of Dreamers Travel, an independent agency in Baltimore, Md., concurred. “I’d want to be left alone with my wife in a private villa somewhere in Bora Bora or Tahiti, without any phones or other distractions.”

Southeast Asia
Also heeding the call of the exotic was Jennifer Doncsecz, CTIE, founder of VIP Vacations in Bethlehem, Penn., a member of the Affluent Traveler Collection. “I’d head to the islands of south Thailand, to Phuket and to Koh Samui, then tie that into a spa vacation in the jungles of Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle.

“I’d stay at the Four Seasons Golden Triangle, a tented hotel where you get your own tent as well as your own elephant,” Doncsecz added.

Amalfi Coast
Italy’s Amalfi Coast spells romance for Howard Green, CEO of Moonrings, a Chicago-based agency affiliated with Andavo Travel, a Virtuoso member. “You can be active, but it’s also conducive to relaxation,” Green said.

“I’d stay at Il San Pietro, just outside town, where you can take wonderful meals overlooking the Mediterranean. In Ravello, I’d choose the Palazzo Avino, which offers wonderful views and serenity.”

Real-life romance
Fantasies aside, where do travel agents actually savor romance in their own lives?

“On my honeymoon to Hawaii, I stayed at the Fairmont Orchid hotel on the Big Island and the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui,” recalled Doncsecz.

“We took a helicopter tour, rented a convertible, visited waterfalls. There were rose petals and candles next to the bed, and a candlelight dinner on the beach. It’s the only vacation where I cried at the end.”

Holistic wellness experience
On their honeymoon in 2003, Green and his wife visited three Hawaiian Islands – Maui, Kauai and the Big Island.

“On Maui, we stayed at the Four Seasons, and at a boutique hotel, the Travaasa Hana, with very private cottages and a spa offering a holistic wellness experience. On Kauai, we stayed at the Grand Hyatt.

“On the Big Island, we stayed at the Four Seasons Wailea, arguably the best hotel in Hawaii, with low-slung villas clustered around pools. The beach is lovely, and there’s a unique pool made of lava and filled with tropical fish and manta rays.”

Spa in the jungle
Mexico’s Riviera Maya gets raves, too.

“My girlfriend and I stayed at the Maroma on Riviera Maya,” recalled Augerinos. “It’s an Orient-Express property, a tiny boutique hotel with a spa in the jungle. We had a private rooftop dinner on a turret that was just big enough for one table, and they served us food and champagne for three hours.”

For culture lovers, Europe holds special allure.

Antiquing in the Cotswolds
“My husband and I spent a few days in London soaking up history, then explored the Cotswolds,” recalled Oliver. “Walking hand-in-hand through Stow-on-the-Wold, poking in antique shops as the snow started to fall, was magical.

“Then we headed to Bath and stayed in a beautiful little B&B. We found Sally Lunn’s for cream tea, funky little antique malls, and a book bindery where we thumbed through books from the 1700s. While it might not be a warm beach scene, it was very romantic to us.”

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The cruise lines are cozying back up to agents, paying higher commissions to win back their favor after agents began turning toward land-based products when cruises became a tough sell. For selling bigger-ticket trips to today's repeat cruisers, traditional agents are the cruise lines' best friends.
  
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