Coming off what by many accounts was a remarkable year for the romance niche, travel advisors are predicting more of the same in 2023. What’s more, the romance segment is continuing to broaden, providing advisors with more selling options.
“We’re definitely seeing enormous interest in romantic getaways beyond weddings and honeymoons to cover the lifespan of couples – everything from proposal trips and babymoons early on to vow renewals in later years (not just milestone anniversaries) and family vacations with romantic components built in to give the parents some quality time while the kids do their own things,” said John Hawks, executive director of the Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association (DWHSA).
“In the wedding arena, we’re getting even more requests for elopements than we did during the pandemic, as well as off-site ceremonies in unique venues away from the resorts, and wedding weeks planned almost as vacations for the guests in addition to the ceremony day.”
The honeymoon market, meanwhile, is expanding to include a range of vacation variations. “Honeymooners today have more disposable income and are looking at all-inclusive and seamless, convenient experiences – and they are willing to pay more to get them,” said Susan Pretkus-Combs, a Dream Vacations franchise owner in Trabuco Canyon, Calif.
“Many are older and have already traveled extensively, therefore desiring a more adventurous or exotic destination rather than the typical tropical beach vacation. Those celebrating anniversaries often bring their extended family members along.”
Hawks added, “For honeymoons, buddymoons have become very popular, where friends and family members drop in on the couple for a few days; as well as splitmoons, where the trip is divided between more than one destination to make both spouses happy. And there’s no end to the demand for bucket-list honeymoon itineraries so far.”
Pretkus-Combs said that she is seeing more couples traveling together to celebrate their mutual anniversaries. “Cruises continue to be especially popular for these large group celebrations,” she said. “
Aggie Batista, a Dream Vacations owner based in Rockaway Park, NY, suggested advisors working toward boosting their business by promoting proposal trips. “If you can get a client on a proposal trip, that can lead to a destination wedding, honeymoon, babymoon, etc.
“I recently booked a proposal trip in October to Aruba and I am looking forward to helping book this client on many future romantic getaways.”
Alison Tracy, an independent advisor at Dream Vacations in Orlando said her honeymoon couples “are making up for their lost honeymoons due to the pandemic and an increase in unique honeymoon ideas.”
“Since COVID-19 restrictions and requirements are basically a thing of the past, more people are broadening their horizons and want to travel to destinations they may not have even thought of in the past – this is especially true for honeymoon clients,” she said.
Tracy noted that approximately 70 percent of the honeymoons she books are based in the Caribbean. “But now, a large majority of my honeymoon clients are requesting off-the-beaten-path destinations or destinations that are unique and not so mainstream,” she said. “
In terms of qualifying clients, James Berglie, president Be All Inclusive in Fallston, Md. – who once had a career as a photographer – steers away from the concept of selling in favor of serving as a guide for his clients.
“We don’t ‘sell resorts’ – we guide our couples through the many variables that should be taken into consideration when choosing a destination wedding location and we help them make the best choice for them, taking into account all the different variables that play a role,” he said.
“Having experience photographing destination weddings for years really uniquely positions our agency, as well as having guided brides through the entire process, and actually being there on wedding day countless times with our couples has given us perspective that most other wedding vendors don’t have.”
Sally Jane Smith, president and CEO of TravelSmiths in Point Pleasant, N.J., uses an independent contractor a wedding dedicated wedding coordinator. “She’s a Type A personality who thinks of things you would never think of,” she said, adding that the advisor conducts her own consultation once Smith has finished hers.
Although there is a charge for her service, Smith said approximately 60 percent of her wedding clients avail themselves of her services – and 90 percent of those customers have her come down to the destination wedding resort.
In the final analysis, all signs point to a record year for the romance sector.
“We expect 2023 to be a record-breaking year for romance travel specialists,” Hawks said. “Many resorts are already fully booked for destination weddings this year, couples are clamoring for bucket-list honeymoons, and DWHSA members tell us they’re getting huge demand for anniversary trips, vow renewals, babymoons and other types of romantic getaways as well.”
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