Your Honeymoon …as part of your Gift Registry!

Travel Moon is a luxury bespoke honeymoon registry.

In a nutshell, Travel Moon offers a unique service which affords each wedding couple the chance to personalize their honeymoon.

By adding additional wish list items, the couple creates a registry for their friends and family to purchase experiences for them to enjoy whilst on honeymoon.

The average age of a South African couple getting married in 2017 is 30 (ladies) and 35 (gents).  75% of couples have typically lived together for at least one year, and a large portion already own their house and its contents. This means that the typical wedding registry of crockery and cutlery is no longer as appealing to the modern couple, although a formal wedding still requires guidance in terms of gifting.

Furthermore, 64% of couples finance their own wedding expenses, and therefore the honeymoon is sometimes an additional financial strain which is therefore often pared down as a result.

What a great idea!

Travel Moon offers each couple a chance to add wish list items and experiences to their trip, and friends and family can purchase these in place of wedding gifts. The couple is not ‘crowdfunding’ their honeymoon by simply raising cash; rather, they are adding elements to the trip that they otherwise would not be able to enjoy. These items are presented to each couple based on their style, destination, preferences and tastes. The important differentiation to Travel Moon is that the couple is not asking friends and family to pay for the basic costs of the honeymoon – instead, they are adding special elements that they otherwise would not be able to enjoy.

The aim is that 80% of the items in the registry have been specified and requested by the couple. Along with the Travel Moon team, each couple has a mini website created which tells guests a little about the couple, their likes, their destination, and their dream honeymoon. The mini site also lists their registry items – which may be tours, meals and drinks, material items suitable for the destination, or almost any other detail that adds to the overall experience of the couple whilst on their honeymoon.

The key elements are: Romance, Value and Exclusivity

Travel Moon focuses on the top end travel market, as opposed to package deal bulk market clients. Our clients are increasingly seeking new and exciting destinations, as opposed to visiting Mauritius and the Seychelles along with family groups and major retail travel agency clients. Our market is always looking to add both value and exclusivity to their experience. A lot of our clients are also experienced travelers, and for this reason they prefer to avoid the major tourist areas when travelling for leisure.

A large focus at the moment is to seek out new spots within Africa and the known Indian Ocean Islands, such as Zanzibar and Mozambique. Clients interested in these destinations almost always choose small boutique destinations, or private islands and villas, as opposed to chain hotel resorts. Madagascar is becoming a top destination too, with Nosy Be appealing to the adventurous traveler.  Cape Town is always popular, as is the bush, and with the growth of exclusive small properties by prestigious names such as &Beyond, these destinations have a growing appeal to our market.

There is a move now towards travelling to the Far East, such as China and the Hong Kong islands, where the Rand is still strong enough to support a luxury trip. Even in well known destinations such as Thailand, our clients prefer to look at options such as helicopter flips, charter yachts and personalized services to ensure that they have an exclusive experience wherever they are.

Hidden Gems

The island of Madagascar is definitely on the list of hidden gems! It is only three hours’ flight from South Africa, and offers a wide range of adventures for all travelers. The appeal here lies in the experiences that one can have – such as forest hikes looking for lemurs, or scuba diving with manta rays. There is also an increasing number of sumptous properties here, such as the Relais & Chateaux owned Anjajavy in the north west, or Constance Tsarabanjina – a private island off the coast of Nosy Be.

Further from home, Vietnam and Myanmar are also great, lesser known destinations, often overlooked in favor of the more commercial Thailand. Both of these countries offer culture, history, beaches and outdoor adventures, with beautiful accommodation by international brands such as Per Aquum, Anantara, COMO and Mandarin Oriental. We’ve noticed a move when choosing Thailand to look at the more obscure islands, such as Kho Kood (with the superb Soneva Kiri Residences a top choice here), and places such as Chang Mai and the golden triangle in Thailand.

The more obscure European destinations are also increasingly popular, especially those that have not yet joined the Eurozone. Honeymooners always love Croatia, but are increasingly looking at the less touristy Montenegro for private yachts, villas and islands, while inland Poland, Hungary and Slovenia are popular for their history and empirical architecture and classically indulgent lodgings.

Islands will always be popular for honeymoons, and the Maldives islands are a great bet with many top notch accommodation options. These include the COMO Maalifushi resort, which is a private island with idyllic overwater suites that exude relaxation, as well as newly launched Soneva Jani. Four Seasons Private Island at Voavah is another ultra exclusive destination which offers only seven villas in five-star comfort on a private island, within a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Properties such as this offer everything from VIP immigration services to seaplane transfers to the resorts.

For couples willing to travel a little further, the Galapagos, Cuba and Ecuador are relatively unexplored fascinating destinations that I believe will become more and more popular in the next few years.

How it works

We offer two services when creating a honeymoon registry – full honeymoon management, and luxury bolt-on registry elements.

Our full honeymoon management service covers each and every aspect of the honeymoon.  Travel Moon is not a travel agency, so for this we partner with Marmalade Toast bespoke travel, a top-end travel consultancy who believes in the same values that we do.

We meet with each couple and really get to know them – everything from their favourite wine to their pillow preference and books that they have loved! Small details in getting to know our clients allow us to offer them destinations that they may never have thought of, or experiences they did not know existed. In this package, all travel, accommodation and excursions are booked and managed on our side – from airport transfers to flights, personalized gifts and meal bookings during the trip.

The second service is for clients who have already booked their honeymoon, and want to create a luxury registry based on their existing booking. In this case the Travel Moon team will meet with the client, to understand what motivated their choice of destination, what their passions are, and what sort of additional experiences they have in mind for their registry. We then get in touch with ground handlers at the destination and tailor the unique experiences that will make up the couple’s registry.

We can assist with any type of holiday too, and often a client who has booked for their honeymoon will become a long standing loyal traveler.

Budget is always discussed upfront.  This has a huge impact on the destination and the properties that we can present, which then affects the registry items and activities.  It’s important for us to know that the clientele fit the product – we don’t crowd fund a honeymoon, so we need a client that will still have a great trip even if not one of their items is purchased, and they cover the full cost.

How do people contribute towards the honeymoon package as a gift to the couple getting married?

Each couple has a mini website with a list of their registry items. Each item has a price listed in ZAR and any other relevant currency, alongside an image and description of the exerperience or product. Once the guest has decided what they would like to contribute, they can select an item and the payment is made through their credit card or bank transfer. Some items may be available for multiple purchase (such as cocktails on the beach), and some may be single purchase only (such as tours). As soon as an item is purchased, the available quantity is reduced for the next guests.

One important point to remember is that guests can’t contribute spending money or cash towards flights or accommodation, rather it is a way for guests to contribute experiences that add value to the honeymoon, while still sticking to their budget. We don’t want our clients to ever choose not to enjoy an experience and rather keep the money.

Practical considerations and check lists

Travel Moon shares a list of required items and required documents to be obtained, prior to booking any travel, as part of the arrangements. Additional items such as luxury toiletries, swimwear, passport holders, excess baggage or airport lounge access can even be added to the gift registry!

Malaria hotspots change constantly, so we always advise clients to make themselves aware of this when booking.

For each client we run through visa requirements in detail. There are around 90 countries that South African passport holders can visit without a visa, or with a visa obtained on arrival.

Honeymooners are welcomed almost anywhere in the world, especially those in traditional marriages. All couples must be respectful of local customs and cultures, and sometimes these local customs may mean that an intended destination is not actually suitable.  We discuss this in detail with our clients, to prevent any issues. For example, trips to the Middle East or North Africa are not advisable for our same-sex clients, so we would prefer to guide them towards alternate destinations that will not place pressure on them whilst on their honeymoon, while still giving them the trip of a lifetime.

We also stay abreast of all international travel warnings, which would include those for disease, warfare, weather and political strife. This would all be discussed when the couple is profiled to manage their expectations.

Best time of the year to travel within SA?  

This is such a tough question to answer! South Africa offers such a huge range of destinations, and for each month of the year there is a destination that is perfect for the season. We find that Cape Town is popular year-round, while the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape are more popular in the summer months. 

The bush is also a year round winner, as the summer months offer new born offspring and hot evenings for late night swims and game drives, while the cooler months offer better game viewing and the chance to enjoy the crisp night skies.

Personally I think there is nothing better than the Drakensberg or the West Coast in winter, with atmospheric mists, log fires and a bottle of red wine!

Popular requests by clients

There is definitely a burgeoning market for adventure honeymoons! The adventurous types are looking to destinations such as South America and New Zealand, as well as Madagascar and places like Myanmar and Vietnam. Voluntourism and eco-adventures are becoming more popular too, especially in South East Africa and Africa. The Ritz-Carlton group even has a programme called Give Back Getaways, where guests at certain of their properties donate time to local charities such as visiting care homes in Shanghai, or renewing plant life in mangrove forests off the American coast.

Farm stays, home stays or resorts that offer farm-to-table food or a chance to help out in the fields are also becoming popular in line with the eco awareness of a lot of our target market.  There is also a lot of interest at the moment in smaller luxury boat trips with 50 or fewer passengers, such as those along the Mehkong river, or the Oberoi Zahra along the Nile River.  These miles apart from traditional cruises, and offer five star luxury and personalized service, with spas on board and even dedicated Egyptologists on the Zahra to explain the sites and history.

Some clients look to enjoy opulent small cruises in inland Europe, along the Danube or other renowned waterways, and these cruises have potential to deliver even more on intimacy and personalized touches with their included butler services, panoramic glass windows and marble bathrooms.  These guests love to stow a bicycle or two onboard to explore terraced vineyards and historical villages.  Others job each time they are on shore, or explore local caves and parasail.  Anything is possible!

Seasonal … Summer VS winter honeymoons?

This is also one of those tricky questions that is difficult to answer given how people’s tastes vary. For me, summer is all about warm evenings and cocktails on one of the Greek islands, or exploring temples and palaces in South East Asia. Winter is city sightseeing in Europe, dressed in boots and scarves and sneaking into coffee shops to warm up with hot chocolate or mulled wine, or chasing the Aurora in Scandinavia and husky sledding in Iceland.

Do you scout each venue and location personally?

I wish! I definitely find it easier to focus on destinations and venues that I have stayed at or seen in person, but there are just too many out there to physically visit.  I rely on a great network of ground handlers and a team that has travelled extensively in order to ensure that the venues are suitable.

We track various levels of service and delivery across the board, and share resources with various suppliers to guarantee that we are hitting the mark.  We will also speak to our ground handlers several times to gain an insight into their standards.

The growth of bespoke travel

The luxury curated tourism market has fantastic agencies and DMCs (destination management companies) across the world, as the luxury market continues to grow. As far as I know, Travel Moon offers a one of a kind service. If not, our service level and range of products certainly make us unique!

Travel Moon offers clients the chance to have the honeymoon of their dreams, while giving their friends and family (even those not able to attend the wedding) a chance to contribute to carefully selected and thoughtful experiences whilst on their trip of a lifetime. We often include surprise elements that the couple is unaware of, as well as ensuring that there are items on the registry to suit everyone’s pocket.

“The level of personalization for each couple adds to the warm and fuzzy feeling of the whole honeymoon, and helps us achieve our goal of creating bespoke memories for a lifetime.” – Kerith Hulme

Interview by Confetti Chicks – Winter 2017

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