Written By: Jackie Friedman, President – Nexion Travel Group
June has always been a popular month for weddings; so, what better way to celebrate romance and reignite the wanderlust spark than to share the love and a few best practices for travel advisors who are in or thinking about getting into the Destination Weddings and Romance niche. Whether you’re a longtime honeymoon specialist or new to selling romance travel, there’s always room to refine your skills.
Romance travel is such a fun niche and represents incredibly exciting, happy times in the travelers’ lives, as it nourishes a relationship in so many ways. Travel advisors who serve as consultants for a destination wedding or honeymoon enjoy great satisfaction from assisting with the perfect romantic getaway, and plus, it’s a lucrative earnings opportunity. About 25 percent of marriages are destination weddings, and this trend continues to grow.
So, here’s a fact those that know me well hear frequently: There are riches in niches. No business, particularly a small one such as an independent travel agency, can be all things to all people. The more narrowly you can define your target market, the better. This process is known as creating a niche and is key to success.
By specializing in a particular product or market, you effectively distinguish your business from your competitors and appeal to a specific demographic or psychographic target audience. Good niches, especially Honeymoons and Weddings, don’t just fall into your lap; they must be carefully crafted. A travel professional in romance travel needs to develop special knowledge and skillsets to be able to give their clients the destination wedding or honeymoon of their dreams. Here are 10 ways you can make your romance travel sales soar:
1. Do your research.
Understand the latest trends in honeymoons and destinations, as well as the types of trips couples, and their wedding parties, would love to go on. The more you can do to understand what would ‘wow” them, the better you will do. If possible, go on several FAM tips a year to stay current with top destinations, along with resorts, staff and their supplier partners. This value of relationships, along with your knowledge of saying, “I’ve been there,” will set you apart from online travel agencies.
Include a cruise or two in your FAM repertoire. Cruises make perfect destination weddings. Newer, larger ships have ample space and can be quite budget friendly, as everything is included. You can also provide private shore excursions or other amenities for the wedding party and their guests.
2. Identify and analyze your competitors.
What are other romance specialists doing that attracts potential customers? Are there opportunities to differentiate yourself to stand out in the marketplace? For example, one idea is to send personal emails or notes to honeymooners leading up to their celebration trip, which lets them know you’re thinking about them. You could include useful information, such as travel tips about their destination, as well as fun messages, memes or personalized videos to build excitement.
3. Establish expertise above and beyond your competitors.
Learn more about less rather than less about more. Knowing more about less helps control the breadth of information you need to know, because you’re focusing on knowing things well versus being a generalist. For example, ensure you have the contacts in-destination who can help make your destination weddings and honeymoons memorable and worry-free. Plus, your expertise and relationships will allow you to share with your clients the best place to stay that matches their personality.
In addition, consider becoming a certified romance specialist, which will increase your value as a professional travel advisor. Nexion Travel Group, for example, has special pricing on the Certified Honeymoon and Destination Wedding Specialist program. And, did you know that travel advisors with at least one certification typically receive two times the leads versus those with no certifications?
4. Don’t forget the details.
Destination weddings are typically full of details that brides don’t realize. Managing the travel for the group that may be accompanying the couple is a huge burden lifted off their shoulders. Stay organized and keep track of it all, so your bride doesn’t have to. Little details, such as ensuring guests have an itinerary or providing a wedding travel checklist with “have you thought of this?” can go a long way. And this service delivery is key to attracting new clients from among wedding guests and family.
5. Build credibility by partnering with someone who has an established name.
Look for opportunities for joint ventures or cross marketing. An obvious partnership would be collaborating with florists, bridal shops, photographers and caterers. A subtle example would be partnering with a doggie day care, for example. It’s a great way to reach couples with pets who may be anxious about leaving their fur babies to go on a romantic getaway. And speaking of marketing, don’t forget promoting a honeymoon gift registry with your agency information on the couple’s wedding site is free advertising (48 percent of couples launch a wedding website)!
6. Be unique, so your romantic getaway departures are hard to shop.
People will pay a premium for those wow moments. Put packages together that include added value experiences that aren’t found in standard destination wedding/all-inclusive resort or cruise offerings. Look for opportunities from offerings from your supplier relationships through your host agency to give your clients room upgrades or whatever is needed to get them excited.
7. How can you surprise and delight?
Make sure your guests will have a story to share on social media and their wedding websites while they’re traveling and when they return home. This includes the bride and groom and the entire group, as those Instagram postings showing a terrific time will lead to referrals. The small, romantic touches – such as chocolate-covered strawberries, a cheese and fruit plate and/or a bottle of bubbly – will not only make the couple’s trip more memorable but also encourage client loyalty and repeat business.
8. Fish where the fish are.
Find ways to connect with your potential customers and understand their needs as honeymooners and brides/grooms. And go where they are serious about using your services; bridal fairs that charge an entrance fee, for example, may yield better results than the massive free shows. In addition, don’t forget those romantic trips that celebrate relationship milestones – whether it’s your original bride and groom celebrating a key anniversary, “babymoons” or even proposal trips! Bachelor and bachelorette parties in fun, all-inclusive destinations are also popular.
If you choose this niche, know it’s all about sourcing and finding new customers (because hopefully a couple only gets married once). If you want to nurture these relationships for repeat business, successful travel advisors find opportunities to market additional travel experiences to the couple as well as find new customers from within the couple’s inner circle. For example, are there others attending the Destination Wedding who are engaged?
9. Join networks and organizations that cater to people in the romance and destination wedding niche.
Nexion Travel Group partners with the Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialists Association, for example. Find people who are well connected who can open doors for you. It’s not only about who you know, but also who they know.
10. Don’t throw your expertise to the wind.
Be sure to emphasize the value of services that you offer and how your expertise will help your clients have the best possible experience. Destination weddings, honeymoons and groups are markets where travel advisors can feel more comfortable charging professional fees, because of the value they provide for these complex, important vacations. It’s completely appropriate to charge fees, as your time and experience are worthy of compensation.
We are so lucky to be part of an industry where we can blend our passions – the love of helping people, the love of travel, the love of romance! How fortunate it would be to build your travel business around yet another passion you may have and turn it into a niche or specialization! As author Lewis Carroll once said, “The best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.”