Dealing with Guests Who Want to Book Outside the Travel Agent Group Rate
The art of getting all your guests to place their deposits for your destination wedding accommodations and finalize their booking through your travel agent can be hard -- we're talking rocket science hard. Because you'll likely have at least one guest who needs a little more time to book, another guest who goes rogue and THINKS they have found a better deal at the same resort, and of course another set of guests who decide they're going to stay at another resort all together. So how do you deal with this?
The bottom line is: be open and honest with your guests from the start, and be sure they have full information on the process of booking their stay..
When wedding guests book outside the established travel agent group rate, there is often a resort surcharge for that person to attend any of your scheduled events. So let your guests know about these extra fees that must be paid if they book outside your contracted group rate. Since couples have arranged a group rate and held rooms for their guests in a group block, many brides and grooms do pass any additional charge for booking outside the group on to those guests who choose that route. So convey to your guests ahead of time what the ramifications are if they book on their own. Having guests book elsewhere could also put additional pressure on the wedding couple, as most resorts require a minimum occupancy to stay at the resort.
Also when it comes to guests who decide to book lodging elsewhere outside of your chosen resort, make sure they know there will typically be a visitors fee for them to enter your resort and attend your wedding (if that is in fact, your resort's policy). These visitor fees can average anywhere from $75 to $200 per guests --so these unexpected costs can easily add up. Additionally, if a resort is full to capacity, they are under no obligation to sell these "day passes" to people wishing to enter for the day. Resorts will not overcrowd their paying guests by allowing in those staying elsewhere if they are full, meaning there's no guarantee they'll be able to attend your wedding at all!
Now it's up to you whether you want to cover your guests visitor fee or tell your guests that they would be responsible for paying it on their own -- Most couples make it clear that any additional cost for those choosing to stay elsewhere would be the guest's responsibility, from transfers, to taxi to entry fee. Once these are all calculated into the total price, it is quite typical that the cost of staying elsewhere can actually be higher than just booking into the group block and staying on site. Additionally, the whole concept and experience of a destination wedding includes not just guests attending the actual ceremony, but leisure time spent on the beach with the wedding couple, or relaxing with a drink in the lobby bar -- all things that off-site guests would be excluded from experiencing.
It's also important to emphasize to your guests that you've contracted the help of a travel agent, who can help ensure their needs are taken care of should any problems arise during the booking or travel process. Travel agents usually also have established working relationships with the resorts they work with and can quickly handle any issues or unexpected problems that arise -- giving you the attention and assistance you need, whereas those who book deals on discount travel websites often have no recourse or anyone to turn to who can offer immediate help.
Most importantly, when guests stay off-site, they are missing out on the best part of a destination wedding -- which is the group trip aspect. It's the bonding of the wedding guests where you really foster relationships with people and long lasting memories, and these times can only truly be had when you are interacting with the group at the same resort.
How Do You Tell Your Guests of the Importance of Booking the Travel Agent Group Rate?
TA Wendy, one of the agents for Wright Travel Agency -- the official agency for the Best Destination Wedding Forum -- suggests that couples put something on their website or Save the Date that says,
"We are delighted that you are considering attending our Destination Wedding, and to make your booking the trip smooth and easy we have contracted for the rooms with a Travel Agent who specializes in Destination wedding travel. If you are planning to come this is how you should book your reservation to ensure you are in our group block and a part of all the festivities."
A simple statement like this will often deter guests from going off and travel shopping on their own.
Unfortunately, there truly is no way you can force anyone to book according to your wishes, but you do have the ability to provide your guests with the knowledge upfront of what can, and will happen, if they decide to book outside the established group rate. Being upfront and honest from the get go, can save you a lot of headache, stress and most of all money in the long run!
For more information and assistance about establishing a group rate at the resort of your choice, contact one of the Best Destination Wedding travel agents who specialize in destination wedding and honeymoon travel. You can contact them HERE!
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About me: I am a former BDW Bride AKA as MarieSam and I was addicted to this forum as I planned my own wedding in 2009. Since 2010, I have been the proud owner of MarieSam Sanchez Photography -- a husband and wife photography team based in Southern California and documenting love all over the world. I am also a mother to two girls, an avid traveler and a destination wedding writer/blogger.