Vowing to Specialize

Expertise can pay off for agents in the destination wedding market

By: Theresa Norton Masek

The message came through loud and clear at the Honeymoon and Romantic Getaways Show earlier this month in Long Beach, Calif.: Specialize, specialize, specialize.

What the niche is doesn’t matter. But at the show I learned more about the fast-growing destination wedding market when I moderated a panel on Caribbean resorts that included two sales executives and a travel agent nay, a wedding coordinator from Royal Oak, Mich.

That’s what Sandra Smith of Directional Strategies calls herself because that’s what she does plans weddings and honeymoons in tropical locales.

She advertises in regional wedding magazines, attends bridal shows and networks with fellow members of the Association of Bridal Consultants. She books five to 10 weddings a month, averaging seven rooms per wedding.

Adding to her success is the fact that she only actively sells 22 resorts on eight Caribbean islands. You can bet she knows those properties intimately, and can name the wedding coordinator at each without checking her Rolodex.

And that expertise no doubt increases the odds couples won’t be disappointed with their once-in-a-lifetime ceremony and that they’ll return to book their first-anniversary trip.

Destination weddings are a booming segment of the honeymoon market. Melissa Mango, an Orange County-based national account manager for Sandals, said the high-profile, couples-only chain conducted 12,000 weddings last year, a fourfold increase in seven years.

Becky Johnson, of Kahala Travel in San Diego, attended the panel and was furiously scribbling notes on her recently chosen specialty. “Specialization makes a difference,” she told me. “You really need to know your little area and know it well.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.