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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Agents go after Hawai'i honeymoon market

By Kelly Yamanouchi
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honeymooners have long been drawn to Hawai'i, and today's $7 billion honeymoon travel market is growing more lucrative as couples get married later and have more money to spend.

Heather Stoll, travel director for Conde Nast Bridal Group, said her company found honeymooners spend an average of $3,719 on their trips, or about three times the average U.S. leisure traveler.

Of some 2.3 million weddings a year — about 44,000 a week — some 16 percent of all honeymooners came to Hawai'i last year and spent $1.1 billion.

Stoll said the demographics of honeymooners is slowly shifting, leading to opportunities in the travel industry. In 1960, the average age of brides was 20; today, it is 29 for the groom and 27 for the bride, and they have an average household income of $83,200.

"Today, at 27, these people have been on trips before; they're a little more savvy and definitely more affluent," Stoll said.

Honeymoon specialists and dozens of travel agents interested in learning about selling honeymoons in Hawai'i exchanged information on trends yesterday at a seminar at the American Society of Travel Agents World Congress, a gathering this week of more than 3,000 travel agents at the Hawai'i Convention Center.

Kristin Bouwkamp, a travel consultant with Witte Travel & Tours in Grand Rapids, Mich., said her travel agency specializes in honeymoons, about half of which are trips to Hawai'i. Most clients like to visit at least two islands in a 7- to 10-day trip, she said.

When Bouwkamp's clients come to the travel agency to plan their honeymoons, they're often undecided about where to go, she said. Favorite destinations include Mexico, St. Lucia, the Bahamas and Jamaica, which offer all-inclusive packages with things such as hotel accommodations, meals, drinks and motorized water sports through providers such as Sandals Resorts.

Conde Nast's Stoll said travel agents are influential in determining honeymoon spots, as some 68 percent of brides-to-be consult an agent.

And travel agents say one main reason their clients choose honeymoon destinations other than Hawai'i is the all-inclusive packages.

Conde Nast's survey results showed that about 99 percent of travel agents specializing in honeymoons have recommended all-inclusive packages, Stoll said, and some always recommend them for honeymooners.

"That's not offered (in Hawai'i)," Bouwkamp said.

David Preece, the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau's vice president of North America, said some Hawai'i resorts offer honeymoon packages of upgraded rooms, dinner and champagne. But the market doesn't see much demand for the kind of all-inclusive packages that Caribbean resorts offer, he said.

"You'll have some places where they'll want to keep people 'on property,' " because it isn't easy to access attractions outside the resort, and they might be concerned about safety, Preece said.

He said studies of tour operators and wholesalers show honeymooners are not interested in all-inclusive packages in Hawai'i. "It doesn't really fit the market need, and the infrastructure doesn't really require it."

Still, many here are trying to capitalize on the honeymoon market. The Kona Village Resort holds a honeymooners reception every week for hotel managers to learn how to improve services for honeymooners and attract business.

Laurence Mountcastle, the resort's marketing director, said many of their honeymooners are from the East Coast, and have never been to Hawai'i.

"It's a new destination," he said. "It's a great way to start a new relationship with a client."

Reach Kelly Yamanouchi at 535-2470, or at kyamanouchi@honoluluadvertiser.com.