We recently caught up with “Mr. Honeymoon,” Jim Augerinos, president of Perfect Honeymoons, to find out what the romance market looks like as COVID begins to lift. Here’s a condensed version of our conversation.
Ruthanne Terrero: Let’s talk about how destination weddings and honeymoons are shaping up for 2021 and 2022. What are you seeing on the front lines?
Jim Augerinos: There was a trend in the past five years to having these big, huge, extravagant destination weddings where you’re inviting a few hundred people. That’s definitely changed. People are paring down their guest lists and wanting to do much more intimate gatherings. The average number is probably about 20 to 30 guests; generally that’s close family, close friends and that’s about it. Obviously, the bride and groom don’t want to burden their guests with having to travel during the pandemic.
Ruthanne Terrero: Are you seeing people booking or rebooking or are they kind of at a loss as to what to do at this moment?
Jim Augerinos: The cool thing with the honeymoon market and the wedding market is it’s very resilient. We’ve been in business since 1989, so we’ve been through recessions, wars, September 11, SARS, bird flu, everything, and the honeymoon business is always resilient, because people always have to get married, the show must go on; versus the regular leisure market, people can say, “Oh well, we won’t go on that vacation this year, we’ll just wait till next year.”
The good news is the majority of the people that I had booked last year actually did rebook for this year and for 2022. There are a lot of people in first quarter of this year who are having to postpone their weddings again because they can’t get married or they can’t travel to wherever they’re needing to travel.
Ruthanne Terrero: You’re great at putting adventure into romance travel and creating unique itineraries. Can you provide some tips for the advisors who are reading this?
Jim Augerinos: Your most important role is being a good listener. This is Sales 101; you’ve got to ask the right questions, you’ve got to qualify the client. I still get clients that want to just go to an all-inclusive resort and lay on a beach for a week. It really boils down to knowing your customer and asking the right questions and getting them to open up about their expectations of the trip and what ultimately they’re seeking. I also make it a point to ask them what they aspire to do, because a lot of times people have always wanted to learn how to scuba dive, but they live in Ohio. Well, you’re not going to scuba dive in Ohio, so the honeymoon is their chance to do what they’ve always dreamed of doing.
You really need to have a conversation with your couple, or at least come up with a laundry list of qualifying questions to get a better sense of the type of vacation they’re looking for. What keeps me on my toes is every couple I consult with wants something different. It’s not just the same honeymoon day after day.
Ruthanne Terrero: So, asking the right questions about what they want to do, that’s probably the best route to take.
Jim Augerinos: This principle holds true for any perfect honeymoon. The very beginning of the honeymoon, you have to earmark for just some downtime and R&R. They’re going to be exhausted from the wedding process, the wedding weekend, the travel getting to the honeymoon destination. I remember years ago, my clients would say, “Oh, we just slept for the first two days of the honeymoon.” So you definitely ease them into the activities and don’t, right off the bat, make them be on the go.
Ruthanne Terrero: How do you prepare clients to travel during these times?
Jim Augerinos: As a travel advisor, you can’t just tell these people, “Oh yeah, you should travel because I need to make money.” I preface every single meeting with here’s the situation. “You’re thinking of traveling to Costa Rica. Costa Rica doesn’t require a test, which is nice. You’ll just have to do the test upon return.” And then I go through the protocols at the hotels, like, “look, you’re going to have to wear a mask in the restaurant, in the lobby, in the spa, but when you’re in the beach or when you’re out hiking you don’t have to wear a mask.” I make sure people are comfortable with all that beforehand.
Now it’s a year later, people know the risks. If you decide to get on an airplane, you get COVID, that’s on you, right? So, I don’t think they’re as concerned with that anymore. I go through all the practicalities with them, but then I also tell them, “Look, the upside is there’s never been a time in history where you can go to these places and have the whole place to yourself.” Someone created the new terminology “over-tourism,” but it’s a thing. I don’t even like going to Venice anymore because it’s so crowded. So I’m telling these people if you decide to travel right now this is an incredible time. You won’t see this ever again. You might have to go through all this other stuff, but look at the upside, you’re going to have the place to yourselves.