The Romance Market Heats Up


Despite the fact that the Omicron variant is continuing to spread, romance travel is thriving, said several travel advisors who specialize in the niche.

“The destination wedding business is booming,” said Sarah Kline, owner of Davidsonville, Md.-based Time for Travel. “We have five times the weddings for 2022 than any previous year in our 26-year history. We are already well into planning for 2023 and even 2024.”

Larger Groups

The number of participants in wedding groups is also continuing to grow. “The number of attendees is higher than in past years,” she said. “I think the higher numbers are because everyone needs something to look forward to and missed their friends and family.”

Similarly, James Berglie, owner of Be All Inclusive in Fallston, Md., said the agency is witnessing record numbers for its destination wedding business. “Groups remain larger than expected and the number of groups we are seeing are continuing to grow,” he said.

Nevertheless, Berglie and Kline noted that some skittish clients are canceling spring 2022 destination weddings.

“We are certainly seeing more instances of last-minute cancellations as guests are choosing to test prior to departure at home and some are testing positive,” Berglie said. “However, groups are not canceling en masse as we experienced in March of 2020.

“Many guests are also reporting they have experienced COVID and recovered already as well.”

Summer/Fall

“I am optimistic that once this latest variant calms down that we’ll have a banner Summer/Fall 2022,” Kline said.

While Jemica Archer has noticed a slowdown in her destination weddings business, she is witnessing an uptick in honeymoon, vow renewal and anniversary trips.

“I think most of my clients are really wanting to reconnect and celebrate love,” said Archer, owner of TruBlue Travels in Jacksonville, Fla.

Generally speaking, couples who pushed their dates from 2020 and 2021 to 2022 and 2023 are moving forward with their plans, said Lisa Sheldon, president of the Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association (DWHSA).

“Approximately 15 percent of clients are rescheduling, and about five percent are canceling,” she said. “If the wedding is canceled, hopefully the travel advisor can try and get the couple to at least take a honeymoon, so they don’t lose a sale completely.”

“There are cancellations, which is inevitable with the uncertainty of some destinations [and] new travel warnings,” she said. “Some clients may not want to travel to a destination with a level 4 warning.”

Travel Trends

On the destination front, Sheldon said Mexico remains very popular with romance clients because the country’s travel restrictions are the most lenient. “As of January 1, Mexico no longer has the online health form to enter, there’s no testing prior to entry and visitors aren’t required to be vaccinated,” she said.

In terms of romance trends, wellness travel is growing in popularity, with an increasing number of travelers spending more time at the gym while on property, Sheldon said, adding that clients also are interested in eco-friendly vacation options.

“Experiential travel is always popular as couples want to explore, experience and immerse themselves into the destination,” she said. “Many couples have saved now for two, possibly three years for their honeymoon after postponements, so they upgrade to better views, longer stays or more experiences that they may not have budgeted for previously.”

All things considered, travel advisors remain optimistic about the continued growth of the romance market.

“It’s engagement season so most couples are optimistic and are looking at 2023 and beyond,” Sheldon said. “Many of the DWHSA members suggest booking 12-18 months in advance,” as many resorts haven’t released 2024 rates yet.

“Overall, there is a sense that no one is going to continue putting their weddings and lives on hold any longer,” Berglie said.

Investing in Insurance

Now more than ever, it behooves travel advisors to recommend that their clients invest in travel insurance.

“We continue to strongly recommend travel insurance for each guest so that in the event they do test positive, they can get their money back or a future travel credit if they are canceling in a penalty period,” said James Berglie of Be All Inclusive.

“Travel insurance gives guests the greatest amount of freedom and security.”

Some destinations are requiring vaccinations and pre-purchased travel insurance that covers the tourist should they become infected and need to quarantine, said Lisa Sheldon of the Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association.

“Some resorts are still holding their stance with cancellation penalties. Most allow date changes but not cancellation,” she said. “The need for travel insurance with cancellation for any reason is very important.”

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