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Thread: Room Block Vs. Travel Agent

  1. #1
    Member Sheree10's Avatar
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    Question Room Block Vs. Travel Agent

    I am planning a wedding in Aruba for next July 2010 at the Renaissance. For those who had a wedding already or are in the process of planning one in Aruba, I would be interested in knowing what plans you made as far as travel for your guests. I keep going back and forth whether we should use a TA's services or just get a room block and have guests take care of everything themselves.

    I don't have a number of guests that plan to attend because we are still far off but I would guestimate about 30-50. I have been in contact with several TA's. They say that I can get a group rate but I can't guarentee that 10-15 ppl will leave and depart on the same days/same airport. There is also an option to do it individually but then once the rates go up some will be paying more- it depends on the rate at that moment.

    I've been in contact with the group sales manager and we got a really good rate. But we have to keep in mind that guests would have to do everything on their own : book air, resort, transfers.

    Please share what you did, plan to do or suggestions... Thank you!!

  2. #2
    Aruba since 1979
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    Andrea J.'s Avatar
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    contact AMY @ MCM tours here is the website
    http://www.aruba4u.com/

    Lisa and i both highly recommend.
    please tell amy that we recommended you call.

    i think a travel agent is necessary.
    some folks do not have a clue about making a reservation (not that there is anything wrong with that) and need to be guided thru the process.

    talk to amy at mcm tours click link

    andrea



    Quote Originally Posted by Sheree10 View Post
    I am planning a wedding in Aruba for next July 2010 at the Renaissance. For those who had a wedding already or are in the process of planning one in Aruba, I would be interested in knowing what plans you made as far as travel for your guests. I keep going back and forth whether we should use a TA's services or just get a room block and have guests take care of everything themselves.

    I don't have a number of guests that plan to attend because we are still far off but I would guestimate about 30-50. I have been in contact with several TA's. They say that I can get a group rate but I can't guarentee that 10-15 ppl will leave and depart on the same days/same airport. There is also an option to do it individually but then once the rates go up some will be paying more- it depends on the rate at that moment.

    I've been in contact with the group sales manager and we got a really good rate. But we have to keep in mind that guests would have to do everything on their own : book air, resort, transfers.

    Please share what you did, plan to do or suggestions... Thank you!!

  3. #3
    Member Sheree10's Avatar
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    Thanks Andrea, I will give Amy a call next week.

  4. #4
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    Hi Sheree --

    We did do a room block and were surprised that our commitment didn't have to be very big to get a really good rate (though it did take some work to get breakfast for two included - something we really wanted). We only committed to 2 nights - the night before the wedding and night of the wedding. Then the guests can also stay up to three nights before the commitment days and / or up to three nights after. So really, they can stay up to 8 nights at our group rate even though we are only committing to 2. Our original commitment is only "20 room nights"... 10 rooms, 2 nights each. It also assures we get an upgrade to a 'honeymoon' room. And I can't remember the numbers exactly, but I think we can 'release' up to 30% of our rooms 30-60 days before the wedding if our contract isn't fulfilled. We're actually on the other side -- we just extended our block by 6 rooms. So, we can add to our commitment as we need it. Our guests can call the hotel to make the reservation or use the group promo code from our wedding website or type it into Marriott's website. I did have the help of a wedding travel agent in negotiating, however I've talked to three other couples that negotiated similar rates / packages at our hotel on their own. Since Renaissance and Marriott are the same company, I would think you'd be able to do pretty good.

    We talked to a few different travel agents that were not able to save much of anything on flights, especially if guests might want to fly different days from different locations, however they may be able to arrange 'transfers' to and from the hotel that can save a little money. Sometimes travel agents will also have other 'value add services' to offer too.

    Flight blocks we looked into required minimum 10 seats on the same flight from the same city and only saved like 10%. I booked a few flights on Orbitz for $480-$530 and just saw the flight come down to $360 (unbeliveable rate).. So, I'm hoping that I'll have another guest book that flight through Orbitz and I'll get the difference back -- $120 or more per ticket (as will other guests that booked through Orbitz). Also keep in mind you may have some people that want to use 'miles'. I have a few guests using miles and we used miles for 13 flights. At least Delta's 'miles' to get to to Aruba are really reasonable. I also have a few guests that weren't comfortable with flights through a TA -- they wanted control of when the flights was bought and how (some people are convinced they'll do better on their own). Like 8 weeks out I still have at least 2 guests holding out on flights which I thought was a really bad idea but it will work out for them -- they'll get the benefit of that $360 flight above - 6 months out no travel agent was able to get anywhere near that rate.

    At least talk to the hotel --- the contract can be a good idea and the commitment might not be nearly as big as you expect. We did make a point to negotiate everything together though -- the wedding and the hotel contract. We wouldn't commit to the wedding until we saw a room contract we were comfortable with. The whole process took weeks though... I thought they'd be in a hurry and want to get us 'locked in', but in all it took a month or so. Drove me crazy but now I'm glad we held out... One other thing that helped I think is that we were genuinely between two hotels - Westin and Marriott. Westin offered great rates very easily and eventually Marriott came close...

    Best of luck!

    Christene

  5. #5
    Member Sheree10's Avatar
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    Smile

    Christine: That sounds like a great idea to negotiate the wedding contract with the rooms. And you got breakfast also? wow. That makes sense because you could have a breakfast with your guests or they can even meet up in small groups to eat together.

    We took care of the wedding stuff awhile back but we were given the contact for the group sales manager. I recently contacted her and you're right we got a great offer and there's not much of a commitment- we just have to guarentee 10 rooms. I forwarded the proposal that I got from the Resort to a Travel agent we've been working with. She claims that she can beat any quote so if she can beat the quote we got from the Renn. we will work with her. Whether it's with an agent or thru the resort directly I'm going to get the best rates. I don't know how many people to expect to attend my wedding but with my immediate family and FI's we can guarantee ten rooms which is the minumum we need to fulfill a room group contract.

    As far as flights I think people will be on their own. If they start early there are some many great deals online for airline fares. I will have to check with American Airlines - I believe they have a wedding program that saves guests 5% for travel but I have to look more into it.

    Thank for your help!

  6. #6
    Member Sheree10's Avatar
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    Christine: with Orbitz how long after the price change are you expected to get the money?

  7. #7
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    Sounds great Sheree -- that would be great if the agent can beat what you have already been offered. And of course it could be helpful if they have extra services they offer. We had offers in hand before working with an agent and she was able to improve on one of them.

    We had originally wanted all-inclusive but the ones we were looking at were too expensive for some of our guests, especially those that don't party or will be doing activities outside the resort. We felt like insisting our room rate included breakfast for two was a good compromise. The Marriott's breakfast buffet (and Sunday brunch) is really good. Typically we would have a later breakfast that would pretty much be our lunch too. Then maybe mid-day we would split a sandwich or get ice cream. I felt better knowing there was at least one meal my guests didn't have to worry about. They weren't in a hurry to include breakfast but persistance paid off for us.

    For Orbitz -- I'm not really sure how it works. My FI and I went to New York earlier this year and that's when we found out about their price assurance. We got an email that told us we'd be receiving a check since someone else booked the same trip at a lower cost. I expect the refunds don't come until after the trip is done and it did take a few weeks after the email to get the money. I think there are other sites too, that offer similar price guarantees.

    I've never heard of American Airlines offer. That sounds interesting. The best flights from most of our locations was Delta so we didn't really look beyond them. And my baby had 400,000-500,000 miles saved up that paid for 12 or 13 tickets. =) That was probably the biggest thing that let us choose Aruba. (For a brief moment we were afraid we were going to have to choose Florida - not nearly as good as Aruba!)

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