Hilton La Romana's beach gazebo wedding set up.
If there is one travel niche that is absolutely thriving, it’s the destination wedding market. In fact, travel advisors who specialize in the market say their business is off the charts.
“Our destination weddings business continues to thrive, so much so that we had to reset our initial annual sales goals as we blew through the full-year goal by the end of July,” said James Berglie, president of Fallston, Md.-based Be All Inclusive. “This year has been great for business, and 2023 is shaping up to be the best we’ve seen yet.”
Business is so robust that the agency is finding it challenging to keep up with the number of inquiring couples.
“We’ve had to limit the number of new consultations we take regularly and our team has grown since 2020 from just one agent to now nine agents all specializing in destination weddings,” Berglie said.
“As the revenge weddings and do-overs from 2020-22 happened I thought the flow and demand for weddings would slow – but not at all,” said Sarah Kline, president of Davidsonville, Md.-based Time For Travel. “We have a record number of fall 2022 weddings.”
As is the case with Be All Inclusive, next year is looking even stronger, so much so that Kline is not taking on new weddings business until after July 2023.
“I’m shocked daily by the number of requests we are still getting for 2023, especially still for spring and summer,” she said.
Sally Jane Smith, president of Point Pleasant, N.J.-based TravelSmiths, said her destination weddings business is surpassing 2019 numbers.
One of the reasons, she believes, is because of the higher expenses of US. weddings. “People don’t want to spend that kind of money for five hours of time with their family,” she said, adding that her destination weddings clients typically want – at minimum – three or four-night stays.
“In my area, I’ve got venues that run $20,000 just to rent the empty ballroom for six hours,” Berglie said. “That’s not with any catering or decor. Our weddings average spend is $10,000 to $15,000 and that includes their stay and often multiple days of events.
“Our brides, when confronted with the idea of spending $30,000 to $40,000 on a six-hour ‘night out’ on a wedding back home or spending one-third to one-half of the cost on an amazing group vacation combined with a wedding and getting to spend multiple days in paradise with those you love most – it’s an easy decision.”
In terms of venues, Smith said warm-weather destinations are arguably the most popular. “Mexico is number one –it’s value is fantastic,” she said. “The Dominican Republic is probably number two and Jamaica number three.”
In the final analysis, the booming wedding market is at least in part attributable to the pandemic, travel advisors said.
“I think the pandemic made couples realize that big expensive one day home weddings with strangers is not what it is all about,” Kline said. “They want intimate multi-day events with loved ones to make memories.”
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