A travel agent for 32 years, Sheldon has survived SARS, the flu epidemics, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But even in the best of times, she suggests that her clients have a backup plan – especially when the situation is so fluid.
“We always ask our target brides and grooms to think about what happens when it rains. What if a hurricane comes and you can’t reach the island? We have to have a plan B, ”says Sheldon. “Maybe they’ll go to the courthouse and have a quiet ceremony. Then they can postpone the destination wedding to a later date when some of it has been settled and they can rebook everything. “
The Globe spoke to several local travel agents. By and large, their wedding clients choose the Cancun, Cozumel, and Riviera Maya resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. And so far they don’t seem to be jumping a ship.
Katie Vecchione, Founder of Love Life Travel Club in Rockland, specializes in weddings and honeymoons, as well as the occasional adult-only romantic vacation. “I have a wedding in May, June, July, and August and another in October. So far, I haven’t heard panic from anyone. “
Her next wedding is scheduled for May 2nd at Sandals Montego Bay, Jamaica. “Fifty people are going. So far, only two guests have asked me what would happen if Sandals or Jet Blue canceled their reservations, ”reports Vecchione. “At that point, none of them wanted to cancel the reservation on their own. I think the worst thing for people who travel to another part of the world is that they might get stuck somewhere. “
But it all depends on what happens next. Another couple is slated to tie the knot in June on Santorini, an island in Greece’s Cyclades archipelago. Despite US restrictions on travel from Europe, “they still have no plans to cancel,” says Vecchione. “Everyone is waiting for what time will bring. The bride has been pretty calm so far. “
Amy Grishman, founder of Charm & Awe Travel Co. in Swampscott, says that while she hears “a lot of fear about planning travel right now, she doesn’t see much of an impact on honeymoon trips and destination honeymoons. I think the younger population groups are not that concerned about the coronavirus. “
She helps plan her sister’s wedding in Aruba in late June. “Canceling their wedding isn’t even a consideration at this point,” says Grishman. “She’s not worried. Everything will go on as planned. “
Grishman adds that one impact of the pandemic has been the increased flexibility of many tour operators. “They are now adjusting their cancellation policy for new reservations to allow more flexibility. Hopefully this provides security for travelers looking to book trips for later this summer, fall and winter. “
Wedding planning for the destination is progressing rapidly. Brenda Nazaire-Coulanges, a Somerville-based Platinum Key Travel Concierge subsidiary of Travel Makers, is currently working on a wedding for the Riviera Maya in 2021. “Customers have shown no sign that they have changed their minds. Weddings and honeymoons are very important investments, both emotionally and financially, ”she says.
Lesley Hock, director of leisure development at Travel Leaders in Framingham, notes that travel planners are entering the high season for romantic getaways. “June is the big bridal month,” she says, and her honeymoon and wedding clients who made their plans months ago are on hold. “Nobody is calling for a destination wedding for next month. You plan these things almost a year in advance. Because they booked so far in advance, they are just stuck. “
Hock has been a travel agency for 50 years and compares the current situation with the conditions after September 11th, when “people didn’t want to travel at all. The world seems to be on hold. People thinking of leaving the end of summer, autumn and next winter are waiting. “The upside for those who wait is that” after this is over, I think you will see some ‘welcome back “sales.”
So far, none of Hock’s customers is considering moving their wedding closer to home. “When people think of a destination wedding,” she says, “they don’t necessarily think about going to Cape Cod.”
Like every agent the Globus has spoken to, Hock advises her clients to take out travel cancellation insurance. The gold standard – and the most expensive – is “terminate for any reason” insurance. Depending on the insurer, this type of insurance usually reimburses travelers 75 to 80 percent of the costs. And some circumstances can still remain open. Usually such insurance must be taken out when booking or at least prior to final payment.
Since the travel situation is so fluid, most agents advise customers with existing bookings to wait and see. DWHSA President Lisa Sheldon suggests waiting until your travel date approaches.
“If we look at it until the end of May and you travel in July, we might have to reconsider it. As agents, we take it easy, providing our customers with links to the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and Homeland Security. This way, travelers can read it for themselves without our interpretation. Then they can make informed decisions. “
Nazaire-Coulanges agrees. “People don’t want to be treated like they’re fools. You want to be the ones who make the final decisions. It’s all about giving them the right information. “
Sheldon admits these are “scary times,” but she is also in the business of hope. “I’ve seen this for so many years and we always come out on the other side.”
Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at email@example.com.
Patricia Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. David Lyon can be reached at email@example.com.