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Selling love: The travel industry

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From Pampering to Adventuring, Romance is Important to Travelers

When one thinks of a romantic trip for two to some exotic locale, elephants don’t exactly come to mind.

“You’d be surprised what people want and what they consider romantic,” said Mary Seaton, vice president of Suzi Davis Travel and general manager of the agency’s Peoria office, who told of booking a romantic trip for two to Thailand so the couple could be close to elephants.

“Today, activities and even adventure go hand-in-hand with romance, as long as they are together doing things they both enjoy doing. Safaris are big for romance,” Seaton said. “Being together is what counts.”

Now Seaton and other agents will be more than happy to book a trip to an all-inclusive resort that specializes in pampering its guests, she said. “It all depends on what the couple wants and is willing to pay for,” she said.

While not all vacations that travel agencies book are for romance, it is still a big part of the business, said Shelley Wilson, vice president of Alexander Travel in Peoria. “A lot of it is still just the ‘Gosh, I need to get away’ vacation. But even those can be romantic if both sleep better being away from the rat race and focusing on each other,” Wilson said.

“As with everything else, your budget will be the determining factor in the vacation you pick. But we will find the perfect romantic vacation for a couple in any price range because that is not only what we do, it’s what we enjoy doing,” she said.

The occasions for romantic travel vary, from “just because” to an anniversary trip, honeymoons, babymoons (described as the last trip a couple takes before the first child arrives) and destination weddings.

The latter, Seaton said, have grown quite a bit in recent years. They are a way to combine the wedding and honeymoon and allow the families and friends to share in the experience. As long as the families and friends pay their own way to the destination, it also can save money from the big, traditional wedding followed by the big, traditional honeymoon.

“A lot of brides who have a destination wedding in mind will come in and get group rates for more than one destination. We can hold the rate and the space while she decides. We want to make it as economical as we can, but the destination will make the big difference in price,” Seaton said.

The reason for that isn’t because a hotel or resort in Tahiti or Hawaii is necessarily more expensive than the Bahamas or Cancun; it’s because of the cost of flying to the destination, Seaton said.

“If your destination, for a wedding or honeymoon or anything else, is a place where you have to fly a great distance, you are at a disadvantage right away. That is why traveling from the Midwest to some exotic destination can be more difficult because getting there can be more expensive than being there. Flying to get on a cruise is often more expensive than the cruise itself,” she said.

Wilson said another factor about flying is the travel time. If a couple only has a limited number of days for the vacation they would probably prefer not to spend two days of it traveling. She said some of the most romantic destinations are in the South Pacific, such as the private, over-the-water bungalows in the different islands of Tahiti. “The expense and time of traveling to get there can make that destination unaffordable to a lot of couples, which is really too bad,” she said.

Sandals, which Seaton said was the company most instrumental in starting the trend toward all-inclusive resorts, is planning to build a resort with over-the-water bungalows in St. Lucia, which would make them much more doable for the Midwest traveler.

All-inclusive resorts, especially those with spas that pamper and that are on beaches remain the top spots for romantic vacations and honeymoons, Wilson said. Cruises also remain very popular, depending on the cruise line.

“But you know, even a Disney cruise can be romantic because their ships have adults-only decks and such. If you like Disney, the Disneyworld resort can be a good destination for honeymoons. Disney is a master at knowing how to take care of people,” she said.

Those who prefer a cruise on a ship that isn’t so large that it’s a city within itself may enjoy looking into something like the Sea Dream Yacht Club. The boats are much smaller, the cruises are all-inclusive and the attention given guests can be more specialized and personalized. “You will pay more for it, but it is worth it,” said Wilson, who has enjoyed the Sea Dream Yacht Club cruises in the past.

All-inclusive resorts can be elaborate, with private casinos, plunge pools and other amenities. Some offer private sun decks for each suite.

Domestically, there are many resorts that offer top-line amenities and are all-inclusive, Wilson said. Short flights to Las Vegas is one possible destination, or there are even some that are within driving distance of central Illinois. The Goldmoore Bed and Breakfast in Galena is one such destination, she added, with fireplaces and Jacuzzis in each suite.

Seaton said most of the big cities in the United States have romantic possibilities, depending on desires and budgets. New York City and Chicago are among the top such destinations. She also said the west coast, particularly Napa Valley, is popular for romance.

Foreign cities or areas that are popular for romance include Paris, much of Italy and several other destinations in Europe.

Wilson and Seaton both said that while booking vacations on the Internet is the way more and more people choose to go, it is still wise to consult a travel agent.

“At least 50 percent of the time any more we are helping and advising honeymooners. Many of them come to us before they have set a budget because they are not sure where to start. We talk price, travel time and desire, pretty much in that order because we first have to know what they can afford and how much time they have for the honeymoon before we can find the right destination,” she said.

The personal touch and experience in travel “is what we have to sell. The Internet is wonderful but it is not better than one-to-one contact with somebody experienced at putting together travel packages and at being your advocate every step of the way,” Wilson said.

Added Seaton, “People get to know the value of the expertise and the experience of a travel agent. They soon realize when trying to book expansive vacations on their own that they need our services. They know there is security there, as well.”

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).