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
Enter Hawkey's solution: Virtual Honeymoon.
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
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
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
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."