Like all other custom programs, Central Holidays starts with a package that can be built on according to a client’s interest and budget. “How many honeymooners would want to do a package? Very few. But they’re there,” Sembiante says, to help the travel agent build a honeymoon program their clients will always remember. “And there’s the client that says, ‘I don’t even want to see a package. This where I want to go and I’ve got $10,000. Put it together for me.’”
But honeymoons are more than about money. They’re also about creating a truly memorable experience for a couple starting out on their lives together. And in choosing a major tour operator to put together a honeymoon package, Sembiante urges, go for the regional specialist. “There’s some tremendous companies out there such as the mega-companies like Globus and Trafalgar, but what distinguishes us from companies like that is essentially by specializing—we don’t do a global service. We only concentrate on the Mediterranean and that’s our strength. Italy, France, Greece and Spain, that’s where we go, that’s where we stay, we’re not going anywhere else. We do some Egypt programs because of the services we offer with the cruises. But in essence, that’s our strength.
“We have our own offices in Italy and we have partnerships that range back 55 years between Greece and Spain. We give them the expertise and knowledge—we tell them, don’t try to do Rome, Florence and Venice in four days. We give them the distances they have to drive, the amount of time to stay in a place to really enjoy it and all these features that you can only get from people who are doing that constantly.”
Still another Italy specialist, Guido D’Ugo, president of Ciao Italy & Carrani Tours, points out that—surprise, surprise—honeymoons are a good part of his business. “Italy is a very romantic destination,” he says. “The honeymoon people are usually young and many times it’s their first trip overseas and they haven’t necessarily been to Italy,” he explains, so going to the big three—Rome, Florence and Venice—can be a start. But of course, they’re also eager to look for something different. “What is very popular is the Cinque Terre district on the coast and then there’s the famous Amalfi Coast and beautiful Positano. And Tuscany—everybody’s always looking for these romantic villas in the countryside with the wine tasting and the beautiful landscapes. That’s on everybody’s wish list. And finally, there’s Lake Como, it’s one of the most popular and most requested.”
D’Ugo says that while those are basically the Italy destinations his clients have been asking for, “…sometimes it’s difficult to combine all of them because most of the time, they only have one week or 10 days and of course, they want to travel all over the place. So what we try to do is convince them to just try one place other than the other, or maybe two places and wait for the next trip to visit the other destinations.”
Pricing has been an issue with many of his honeymoon clients, D’Ugo admits. “I haven’t seen a five-star client in several months for obvious reasons. When they first call, they all start with the five-star, private coach and glamorous itineraries and ideas, and once they see the price, they have second thoughts. Right now, I’d say the average would be four-star hotels and also the prices have come down a lot with a lot of special offers going on,” which means, he adds, that this is a very good time to plan a honeymoon to Italy.