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Once upon a time, travel agents across North America had a dream: an association focused on romance travel that would be run by agents, for agents. The result? The Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association (DWHSA)!

From its founding in January 2013, DWHSA has now grown into the world’s largest network of romance travel specialists, with more than 900 members in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, and Trinidad & Tobago. And, the best part? It’s still run by agents, for agents!

DWHSA’s Beginnings

For many travel agents, destination weddings and honeymoons are big business:

  • 350,000 destination weddings take place every year – they’re 24 percent of all weddings, some surveys say.
  • More than half of those couples report that they get outside help planning these trips.
  • And, 86 percent of them still plan to take honeymoons after their destination weddings.

To help more agents tap into this market, the training group launched a series of regional workshops that began in Chicago in October 2011 and ran through late spring 2012 (Dallas, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City). “We surveyed more than 300 destination wedding and honeymoon specialists around the United States and Canada to create these courses,” noted John Hawks, the administrator at the time. “In the past 18 months, we’ve had more than 600 agents complete a class with us, in person or online, and their # 1 request for the future has been ‘We need a group for agents who’re just like us.’”

In July 2012, Lisa Sheldon—the owner of I Do Island Weddings in Janesville, Wis.—organized a by-invitation-only Facebook group for destination wedding and honeymoon planners that drew more than 200 agents around North America as members. “I’ve found that many travel agents want to learn more about this fun and profitable niche, but they don’t know where to start,” Lisa said. “And, agents who’ve been selling these types of trips for years want to network with other travel professionals just like them.”

In January 2013, Lisa and John combined their efforts to organize the Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association (DWHSA), a brand-new travel agent organization that represents professional travel counselors who focus their businesses on honeymoons, destination weddings, and romantic travel. “We want to build a huge membership base around two types of agents: those who’ve sold destination weddings and honeymoons for many years, and those who’re just getting their feet wet in this niche,” Lisa explained.

DWHSA’s Philosophies

We’re building this new trade association BY TRAVEL AGENTS, FOR TRAVEL AGENTS.

We want to give travel professionals the tools and resources they need to build a stable, profitable, and enjoyable travel business in this niche. And, since we’re managed by travel agents exclusively, we can keep our overhead very low, and we can keep our focus on the needs of travel agents (not suppliers or destinations).

None of us knows everything about this niche—but, together, we DO know EVERYTHING!

In other words, the world’s grown too large these days for any single agent to know the legal marriage rules for every destination, and to visit every single resort and hotel and destination where couples might go, and to master every angle of marketing and promoting our travel businesses. But, when we network together on Facebook, and we trade tips at DWHSA events, and DWHSA collects ideas from all of us to share in special reports and newsletter, we benefit from the collective knowledge of hundreds of our fellow agents!

We won’t try to be everything to everybody—instead, we’re focused like a laser on destination weddings, honeymoons, and romantic getaways of all types.

In our training sessions, in our conferences, in our Facebook group, in our newsletters, and in everything we do, we’re not talking one day about cruise groups, then faith-based travel the next day, then family reunions the next. Instead, we’re only talking about honeymoons, destination weddings, and romantic getaways. Why? DWs and honeymoons are probably the single most profitable types of bookings agents can make—and, they’re definitely the most fun!

Our long-term goal is increasing consumer awareness of what agents can do for brides and couples.

We see a huge need for DWHSA to engage in consumer marketing campaigns to teach the public why it’s so beneficial to work with professional agents and specialists when planning honeymoons and destination weddings.

And, we want to build DWHSA so that it speaks with ONE voice for agents who’re dedicated to this niche!