Linda Dancer, of Hickory, N.C.-based Honeymoons Inc., has been booking Hawaii destination weddings and honeymoons for more than 20 years. Contributing editor Shane Nelson talked with Dancer about why a strategy of building long-term relationships has led to her success. Q: When couples come to you with questions about booking a wedding in a sand-and-sun destination, how do you sell them on Hawaii?
I don't really ever want to try and sell somebody something, [but] by talking and listening to people, I get a better understanding about what they want their experience to be, [and] then I start to share my experiences with the different islands. I'll show them pictures and describe my past visits, I share details about wedding venues and pictures from my previous clients to really give them a good idea of what their ceremony might look like. I really play it up because I'm so pro-Hawaii.Q: Do you work with any in-state vendors to help you arrange Hawaii weddings for clients on a commission basis?
Yes. My favorite is White Orchid Wedding
, and I have been working with Carolee Higashino there for over 20 years, [because] she's very personable and detail-oriented, sweet and funny, and her whole team is just top-notch. I've worked with other [Hawaii-based] planners over the years, and they come and go — some cut corners sometimes and stuff like that — but Carolee has always been first class, and I never have to worry. If I give my clients to her, I know they will be taken care of. Q: If you arrange a wedding or honeymoon in Hawaii that goes really well, do those clients often end up being regulars for life?
Yes, because the first trip to Hawaii is just a tease. I tell my clients all the time that if we've done Hawaii right, you'll spend the whole flight home planning your next visit back. So it's more about building relationships for me. I would say around 95% to 98% of then will pop back up a couple years later and say, "You did such a great job we want to go back" [or] they'll send me a referral. Q: Do you like to arrange multi-island visits for your Hawaii honeymoon clients?
Sometimes, yes, and often that means time on Oahu to see Pearl Harbor because their granddaddy was in World War II, and then I'll get them to a Neighbor Island. Sometimes people want to go to more than one island, but they can't afford the interisland flights. So a way around that is to fly them in and put them up on the North Shore of Kauai, for example, where they can spend time up in Hanalei, [and] then I put them down in Poipu on the back end, so then they've got kind of a two-island experience. I'll sometimes do the same thing on the Big Island: bring them in, put them at the Sheraton Kona Resort, let them do the manta ray [viewing] experience. Then I'll have them drive around to the backside to Hilo, do Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Akaka Falls, and then bring them back around to spend the rest of their time on the sunny Kohala Coast before flying out of Kona. That way they can avoid the drop charge on their rental car and sort of have a multi-island experience without the flying.