Text by Lori Broadfoot
Fifteen years ago, the bulk of the travel agents business was couples wanting to get away on mid-winter holidays. Now, entire multi-generational families are traveling to the same resort to vacation together for family reunions, weddings or just a group get-away. When you’ve worked hard all year, you need a treat to get away and relax. At a resort, no one has to cook, clean or sleep on the sofa. A holiday at an all-inclusive resort, booked by a travel agent, will include the air fare, airport to hotel transportation, hotel rooms, all food and beverages, as well as nightly entertainment.
People are starting to look at weddings in the Dominican Republic and many other destinations in Mexico as an option rather than booking a big hall in their home town and fussing over all the details. The average sized group is 30-40 people, but groups of over 60 for a wedding are possible. Many wedding guests may have to travel anyway, from other provinces and states; it’s even more convenient for them to travel to an all-inclusive resort.
Some weddings take place right on the beach, and a lot of our brides are barefoot! “I’ve even had a bride who had a very special white bathing suit made with a long flowing chiffon wrap-around skirt. She wore flowers in her hair, it was absolutely incredible.
Most weddings are booked for the winter months, January to March, and the couple may enjoy accommodations in a honeymoon suite. Those in the wedding party and close family will usually arrive a few days before the wedding; that way they can take the time to relax and make last-minute preparations for the big day. Also, everyone coming from various locations can arrive on their own schedules.
Each person attending the wedding is responsible for their own costs, but once they leave home, guests don’t have to pay for anything else. Either the wedding itself is included with the group booking, or there is a nominal fee for a separate package, and there may be a private reserved area for the wedding ceremony and party. The agent takes care of everyone’s travel arrangements; usually guests come from across North America.
With activities and services for children from toddlers to teens, all-inclusive resorts have become popular with people who want to get their friends together, or if they have a large family. People will even travel with small children, as all-inclusive resorts may host kids’ themed events and activities, and also offer child-minding services. Older kids and teens may enjoy water sports facilities and classes. Parents can go dining and dancing alone in the evening, or play sports or relax and take in the sun during the day, knowing their children are supervised and having as much fun as they are.
A lot of people who have been traveling for years now have their children moving away and perhaps getting married. Rather than ‘going home to visit Mom and Dad’, they all vacation together by going to a common destination and everyone has a holiday.
The industry advises booking a holiday six to eight months in advance. First of all a deposit guarantees your space and prices aren’t like they used to be where the airlines sell off any vacant seats at a discount. In the past five years, the high demand flights are selling out. If you wait for last minute sales, even to save a hundred or two on the flight (if one is available), you run the risk of not finding suitable accommodations because the four and five-star hotels may sell out, the demand is that high. The travel industry has also introduced Early Bonus Bookings (EBB), where a tour company will reward customers for paying for their tour by an early fall date, perhaps by the end of October. Some agents may also provide discounts to repeat booking customers if they book well in advance of departure.
A knowledgeable agent will have a lot of information about a wide variety of destinations, and be able to match the accommodations to the customer. As agents we want to keep the customer happy and select the right destination and resort to meet their needs. Some people want to get away to relax, others want to be active and party.
Agents have opportunities to see hotels and resorts through specially planned agent-only trips so they learn first-hand what may be offered to their clients. Agents will also use feedback from their clients upon their return from a holiday about the accommodations and quality of the service.
The personal attention you will receive from your agent may be invaluable. Agents will receive advance notice of upcoming issues, such as weather, that may affect travel, and are then able to take care of their clients’ needs promptly. For instance last year when hurricane Katrina hit Cancun, I was able to re-locate all–about thirty–of my bookings to other destinations. The general population, especially if they’ve booked their holiday online, may not be able to make last minute changes to their reservations, or they simply won’t know of another suitable destination. An agent will work aggressively to give their own clients satisfaction and tour companies will do everything they can to work with an agent, who represents to them multiple and repeat bookings.
Hot southern destinations are still most popular in the winter, springtime and autumn are the traditional times to visit Europe, lots of bus tours are available then, and summer is popular for honeymooning couples. There are still new resorts popping up at destinations in Mexico that people may not have heard of yet, if people looking for something new.
More people are taking cruises nowadays, with all of the facilities on-board they are like resorts, with the added bonus of a new destination to explore at each port of call.
A travel agent will be able to tailor your vacation package to suit your desires and budget. The toughest decision may be to choose what part of the world you’d like to visit.