Success can sometimes be left up to chance, but for the most part, hard work, knowledge and drive go hand-in-hand with finding success. Such was the case for Sharon Campbell Little of Wedding and Honeymoon Travel Group. Learn how she grew her destination wedding business and how she keeps it going strong today.
I have been in the destination wedding business for almost 10 years now and in travel industry for 30 years.
I got into destination weddings by sheer accident and a little bit of luck. I was in the right place at the right time and that happened to be in Jamaica. An industry friend of mine suggested I go to Jamaica as I had never been before. I went and fell in love with this island. Whilst I was there, I could not help but notice that every hotel/resort I visited, I saw several weddings taking place. I did some further research and learned that Jamaica offers more weddings than any other island in the Caribbean. From here I set a very aggressive goal to be a top-selling agency in the world within five years. We did it within three years.
A destination wedding booking differs in many ways from regular bookings. First off, the booking period is usually 12-18 months in advance of the travel date. Therefore we are servicing and managing the couple and their guests and building a trusting relationship for a much longer period of time than most regular bookings.
Secondly, a destination wedding is such an emotional purchase for the couple and an emotional sale for us as travel professionals. There are usually more than the couple involved with the decision choice of the destination itself and then the choice of the resort/location. With so many other opinions and requests to consider, often the closing of the contract takes a while longer than a regular travel booking.
Third and most importantly, we only get one chance to ensure that the wedding day experience that the couple wants and hopes for exceeds their expectations. We don’t get a second chance or another opportunity to fix anything that doesn’t go smoothly on the wedding day. There is so much more at stake and possibilities of things that may not go to plan and could be seen to “spoil or ruin the experience."
My advice for anyone who wants to get into destination weddings is to first of all really take the time and investigate and research everything that goes into the travel advisor planning and booking of destination weddings. Talk with travel advisors that have been doing this niche for at least three years or more. Talk with the onsite wedding planners in resorts. You must be a very disciplined agent with such attention to details. Every small fine/detail is confirmed and checked and not left to chance. Attention to details here are absolute key. From the very outset of working with destination wedding couples, you should be upfront with them from all aspects of terms/conditions, the model and way in which you work, what are acceptable requests and behaviors and what is not. If you are transparent and up front from the initial consultation then the couple will know what to expect from the outset and this should help you to manage their expectations and avoid any unnecessary clashes a year down the road.
I would also advise agents coming into this niche to really learn and know every intricate detail about the destination wedding process and timelines, etc., as most of the confirmed details are not set until approximately 60 days prior to the couple’s arrival. Therefore there is a lot of contact and relationship building that needs to be done along the way.
Be prepared to network with and work very closely with the onsite/in-resort wedding planning teams. Communication and mutual respect with these resort personnel is so important, as once the couple arrives at property, we rely completely on them to deliver the exact wedding experience that we promised and sold to the couple.
There is not too much repeat business in the niche of destination weddings and agents should think about this before coming into this niche as everyday they will be looking to attract new destination wedding couples since 99.9% of their destination couples only get married once 😊
I have helped plan over 5,000 destination weddings and I still cry at the videos I see of my couples getting married. Probably seeing my close friends and even my own brother get married in 2018 was one of the best wedding moments. I was so emotional that I could barely read out the blessing in the ceremony.
I have many favorite International wedding destinations such as Italy, Spain, Tahiti, Scotland, Mexico, Barbados and St. Lucia however my ultimate favorite has to be Jamaica, simply because this is where it all began for my DW company and I have many resort staff and wedding planners who have helped us and so many of our couples over the years, many of whom are still in resorts and we work with today. If I was lucky enough to get married again, this is most likely where my destination wedding would take place.
There are so many great domestic destinations too that I love such as Hawaiian islands, Miami/Key West and Lake Tahoe but my ultimate domestic favorite has to be my home state of Southern California. The natural environment, climate and destination wedding locations here are simply stunning and some of the most unique venues I have ever seen from Alpine mountains and Yosemite to warm sandy beaches on the Pacific Ocean.