It's a problem most agents face on a regular basis: Clients, old or new, want to go on a vacation, but they don't know where. 

Or, maybe they know they want to go "somewhere warm and tropical," but they haven't narrowed it down beyond that. With a literal world of possible destinations, the qualifying questions begin.

The situation is one Robin Hawkey knows well. A former agent who specialized in romance travel, she often had clients come to her with little to no idea of where they wanted to go on their honeymoon.

"It's our jobs as agents to sell them, to match them to the right property," Hawkey said. "But honestly, when you're just talking about the destination and trying to narrow that down, that can take weeks, months of your time, and it's back and forth."

And sometimes, a much worse scenario plays out: An agent helps clients pick a destination, then they disappear and book it online themselves.

Enter Hawkey's solution: Virtual Honeymoon.

Robin Hawkey
Robin Hawkey

Using her experience as an agent, Hawkey has created a destination-matching service in the form of an easy online quiz agents can present to clients. The quiz comes on a white-labeled website agents can customize, and it includes destination guides. Hawkey no longer sells travel, instead devoting herself full-time to the company.

Agents first present their clients with a 17-question quiz.

"These are the questions that we would ask if they were sitting in front of us, if we were trying to figure it out, and we pretty much have it down to a science," Hawkey said. "It's working extremely well."

At the end, the clients are presented with their top two matches based on criteria such as travel style and budget, and they can click through to destination guides on those spots.

The website and its components start at $19.95 per month or $191.52 per year (a demo version is live at www.demo.virtualhoneymoon.com). It includes a back-office feature agents can use to make changes or additions to the site that Hawkey said is very easy to use.

Hawkey has added virtual reality (VR) videos to some of the destination pages, and more are being added. She is encouraging agents to purchase headsets to use at in-person client appointments and events like bridal shows.

She has partnered with Canadian company XPLR VR for the videos and directs agents to that company if they wish to purchase headsets. The price point is around $100 per headset.

"I truly feel if [agents] are not going to get in on [VR], they are going to get left behind," said Hawkey, who describes the videos as "the next best thing to being there."

It's something she has had personal success with. While Hawkey no longer sells travel, she decided to do one final destination wedding for her daughter's best friend and sold the couple on Jamaica using a VR video.

Virtual Honeymoon has been available to agents since last October. Hawkey has not been actively marketing it, but plans to ramp up her efforts soon. Some 60 agents already use Virtual Honeymoon, and Hawkey's goal is to have 1,000 users by the end of the year. She has also begun approaching consortia about partnerships.

The agents using the tool are all certified as romance travel specialists by the Destination Weddings and Honeymoons Specialists Association.

Lynn Wilson, owner of Shared Travel in Chico, Calif., said she finds the tool useful when couples are unsure of where to honeymoon. She recently purchased two VR headsets to use at an upcoming bridal show.

"It's fun. It's different. It's an experience," she said, adding that the price of the headsets is not prohibitively high, nor are they low quality.

Camille Sanders, owner of Chic Romance Travel in Fresno, Calif., uses Virtual Honeymoon and its quiz as a marketing tool. She includes links to the quiz in her newsletters, on social media and in her signature line of emails. She has also sent it to past clients.

"Taking a quick little quiz, it's fun," she said. "It doesn't take very long to do."

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