hen Minneapolis-based $20 million
Carrousel Travel examined its honeymoon registry, it realized that
like most leisure agencies offering this service, it needed major
Carrousel's four honeymoon specialists saw the process as "very
time-consuming and lots of work." They were ready for change.
Four years ago, Carrousel did some soul searching to determine
the areas of strength and profitability where it could focus its
efforts. "Like most agents, we knew we needed to specialize, but
picking the best niche wasn't so easy," said Neal Kraemer,
Carrousel's owner and former Upper Midwest ASTA chapter
In 1997, Carrousel chose the honeymoon market because it was
something the agency already found lucrative. "The beauty was that
it's recession-proof, year-round and a constantly regenerating
source of clients, with 2.5 million weddings a year," he said.
As Carrousel started to promote this niche, it saw that
honeymoon buyers were more focused purchasers who knew when and
pretty much where they wanted to travel.
Two years ago, Kraemer's friend Scott Ellingboe approached him
with an automated on-line registry idea.
"We needed an automated way to offer our registry to honeymoon
clients and decided the Web would be best," Kraemer said.
He said that from the start, he thought the on-line tool he
co-founded at TheHoneymoon.com would be useful to other agent
specialists in the $8.2 billion honeymoon market.
"We designed the site as a marketplace to help agents sell and
retain clients by differentiating themselves. We didn't start out
with the grandiose vision of us selling honeymoons on line [with]
clients all over the country," he said.
"After all, $4,000 to $6,000 honeymoons are not the type of
travel people buy on the Internet. They want to sit down with agent
specialists and talk about their options."
According to Web site co-founder Ellingboe, who has a technology
background, "We've automated a process that many leisure agencies
have been doing in different ways for a long time."
Kraemer added, "A lot of agents understand how valuable it is to
have an organized honeymoon registry, so we want to prove our worth
as a tool that can help them sell more honeymoons.
"We also want agents to recommend our site to their clients
getting married," he said.
He described TheHoneymoon.com's main goal as changing the way
honeymoons are distributed and said accomplishing this requires
partnering with agents.
Kraemer added that if TheHoneymoon.com helps agents, they will
spread the word about its services to clients.
The site's honeymoon registry and Web pages can all be e-mailed
as links to guests, family and friends.
Currently, the 6-month-old creation has a few thousand
registries on it, with the average registry at $1,000.
Guests pay a fee based on the amount spent and choose from items
the couple has selected in categories such as accommodations,
wining and dining, activities, amenities and travel.
Five days before the wedding, TheHoneymoon.com sends couples a
check for their honeymoon, based on the amount in their
-- Michele San Filippo
Facilitating honeymoon sales
wo years ago, software
executive Scott Ellingboe got this idea while talking to a friend
getting married a second time. His buddy didn't want all the
"stuff" one gets from bridal registries, but needed help paying for
his honeymoon, said Ellingboe, co-founder of TheHoneymoon.com, a
6-month-old on-line registry and marketing firm for agents based in
As Ellingboe and co-founder Neal Kraemer, 15-year owner of
Carrousel Travel in Minneapolis, researched the $8.2 billion
honeymoon market for two years through focus groups and bridal
shows, they noticed a void in the niche. "There was nowhere to go
for information and special services, and suppliers needed a
vehicle to reach the market more efficiently," said Ellingboe.
So Kraemer and Ellingboe started the site as a free registry and
provider of couples' Web pages. But these days, the site has
morphed into an agent sales tool.
Kraemer added, "We try to help agents cater to the honeymoon market
by providing free couples' Web pages, an automated registry, sample
letters and direct mailings."
Its co-founders said the site is making enough from its
registry's 10% service charge (plus credit card fee) to pay for
costs. "We're doing well because we're not a dot-com firm but a
free sales tool," said Kraemer. Agents get a 30% cut of service
fees and their full commissions.
In August, TheHoneymoon.com, which just partnered with
Vacation.com, will launch an agent lead generation system that's
linked to the packages and content to be offered on the site.
Offerings will be bookable through its planned network of 500
agents, who each receive identifier codes for sales since there is
no booking engine. Packages will be connected to an agency locator
for clients to choose their nearest affiliate. E-mails will be sent
to the agency when a consumer expresses interest in a specific
Dream clients: They're everywhere
ometimes, you know, life
doesn't have to be all that complicated. After all, most of us are
looking for the same type of clients. So here is what I
Let's all go to one of the local Starbucks in the neighborhood
of our agencies, sit down and observe the crowd.
Let's try to find our clients among the grande latte skims.
If we count the first 10 businesspeople coming through the door,
it might be fun to try and pick out the two who earn more than
$100,000 a year. They would certainly make nice clients for our
If we sit for a while, we start to realize just how many of
these folks are coming through the door. And we notice how many are
walking on the streets, and how many are on the highway.
everywhere we look, if we are observant enough to see them.
And just about two out of every 10 of those cars on the highway,
no matter if it's a Lexus, a Jeep Cherokee or a Taurus, holds
someone who earns a six-figure salary.
Watch closely and you'll notice one other thing. They don't
exactly have all the time to relax that they would like. In fact,
unlike their brethren in Germany or France, the U.S.'s affluent
buyers seem to be working more, not less. Plus they are more
stressed than ever.
Most of them are looking for memorable, short vacations that are
somehow different from the vacations their neighbors are
That's where we come in. You need to sit in Starbucks and make a
long list of tantalizing one-week vacations you can offer to these
Keep in mind the list needs to read like a novel. It also needs
to be a reference sheet you can give out to the two-out-of-10,
six-figure earners passing in front of you.
These are your dream clients and they will stick with you, but
first you've got to show them that you know who they are and that
you can give them what they need.
Richard Turen is an industry consultant and travel agency
president. Contact him at [email protected].