2016 is around the corner, and brides already have their plans for destination weddings set. So what’s hot for the new year?
Insiders in the world of destination weddings expect clients to travel with larger parties, and move away from the standard beach resort to more adventurous locales. And, as the market for destination weddings grows, a crucial trend for travel agents will be becoming an expert in a specific area — offering expertise in a niche market within this niche market.
- Think outside the church
“People don’t want the traditional church,” said Brenda O’Neale, founder and president of With This Ring destination Wedding and Honeymoon Travel Agency in Homestead, Pa. She says now the popular school of thought is “what can I do that’s really going to make it mine?”
Brides and grooms want their big day to be a reflection of themselves — which means each wedding, like each couple, is going to be unique. O’Neale has planned weddings in places like a reserved national park, unfinished churches, even a pirate ship.
She expects people to continue to move away from the typical all-inclusive resorts in places like Mexico, and instead opt for locations in the Caribbean like St. Kits, Antigua, and St. Lucia.
But, Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations, a member of Affluent Traveler Collection of Bethlehem, PA., warns some of these places can be difficult to get to, because there are only so many commercial flights available. She expects tour operators to take advantage of charter flights to get parties to where they need to go.
- Plan for bigger groups
Whereas in the past guests at destination weddings were primarily immediate family members, Bobbi Wagner, owner of Destined to Travel LLC, an independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, says “I’m seeing a lot of friends, and friends of friends, that are joining in, because it’s like a mini-vacation for everyone.”
Where she used to plan for about 15 attendees, now that’s jumped to 45 or 50.
Doncsecz notes that South Asian and Indian weddings, which have been booming, often are four times that size, booking as many as 100 rooms for the lavish, three-day event.
- Build a niche
Specializing in a particular area of destination weddings will separate you from the pack, and drive up your business. Doncsecz says learning all she could about the complexities of Indian wedding ceremonies got her name passed along from bride to bride, and built her business in a new demographic.
Whether it’s a religion, a specific location, or a resort brand, become educated in one specific field. Brides and grooms want someone they can trust with the intricacies of their ceremony.
Another niche to consider is LGBT weddings. Chris Austin, vice president of global leisure and luxury sales at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, says that as more and more states legalize LGBT marriages, he sees “a growing opportunity today that wasn’t as large a year ago.”
But, at the end of the day, Doncsecz says the most important thing is to “know your client, because that’s really what it’s all about.”