INTERVIEW: Get To Know The Wedding Pro | Ramona Rusu @ Travel Counsellors
Get To Know The Wedding Pro
Each week, we shine the spotlight on local companies in the wedding industry, allowing you, our reader, to get up close and personal with some of the best wedding vendors in town. Here, you can learn more about the people behind some of the businesses you may be using to make your wedding day perfect!
This week, we have the privilege of showcasing Ramona Rusu, Travel Counsellor at Ramona Rusu @ Travel Counsellors Below, Ramona provides us with an exclusive insight into the company, tells us all about why she works in the industry, and shares with us what she loves the most about her job.
How long has Ramona Rusu @ Travel Counsellors been established, and what makes your company different to other travel companies, particularly in relation to honeymoons?
Travel Counsellors is a British company that has been in the industry for over 20 years and currently has offices in seven countries around the world (UK, UAE, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa). The UAE branch was set up in 2012. The model of the company is based on having franchisees who work independently or in teams. They are experts in helping me deliver exactly what my clients want and more. With the support of their dedicated in-house team and access to over 70,000 suppliers around the world and state of the art booking technology, there is nothing that I cannot assist my clients with.
I set up my franchise of Travel Counsellors in January 2014 and since then I have worked with numerous clients for different types of travel, including business travel, family holidays, friends’ escapes, destination weddings and honeymoons. I soon discovered that I love working with couples planning their honeymoon and I started specialising in that. The main thing that sets me apart from other travel companies is the fact that I invest myself in every single booking like it is my own, and I care enough to make sure that every single detail of the honeymoon is taken care of. I remember how difficult it was to plan my own honeymoon and all the things that I wish were done differently, so I make sure nothing like that happens to any of my clients.
What made you decide to work in the travel industry?
I have always been passionate about the hospitality and travel industry. I decided, when I was in high school, to follow this path and focused all my studies on these industries. Then, I was lucky enough to move to Dubai and to work for one of the best companies in hospitality for over 10 years, which gave me an amazing opportunity to understand the industry and learn all its tricks. It was then time to experience the other side of the industry which involved the planning of the trips. I was extremely passionate about this side also; I always started planning my next holiday immediately after arriving home from the last one. Learning about Travel Counsellors and their model, as well as their focus on customers, was everything I needed to be sure that it was the best next step in my career. Owning the franchise gave me the opportunity to learn so much about how important it is to have a business focused solely on the customers’ needs, as they are the main channel of growth.
What do you love most about your work?
Every single trip that I plan helps me learn something new, helps me understand people more, helps me discover new destinations, sometimes things I never knew existed, and this makes me really happy. I love getting to know people, understanding what would suit them best, researching it and, most of all, I love when I get to speak to them during or after the trip and I can hear how much they have enjoyed it. I love the fact that I have the possibility to make people happy by helping them to create amazing memories from the time when they started their life together. It’s a real honour to feel part of that as well.
Do you have any exciting projects happening any time soon, or any new and unique destinations that you recommend?
One of the most amazing experiences I had while planning honeymoons was with a couple who were interested in celebrating the beginning of their new life together by giving something back to the world as well. So we planned an African safari combined with a few days spent in a resort that had an orphanage to look after. The couple had the chance to spend time with those kids, teaching them English and helping to make them as comfortable and happy as possible.
At the moment, I am working with couples who are interested in discovering the beauty and the secrets of South America, Bali, Europe, Alaska, South Africa and a few couples interested in cruising.
Cruising has started to pick up a lot in the last few years, especially since a few of the cruise lines have decided to have itineraries from Dubai as well. The industry is growing at an incredible pace and the development of their product is absolutely remarkable. The new ships that are being launched every single year are amazing. While cruising has always been seen as being for old people, today, with the new ships and everything they have to offer for the young generation, it is not the case anymore. A honeymoon on a cruise ship can give you the opportunity to experience so much in terms of destinations, as well as entertainment for so much less than if you were to follow the same itinerary by air and land.
While not new, some of the great destinations that attract lots of couples are Southeast Asia with its amazing islands, Fiji or Tahiti, African safaris combined with a beach escape and the beauties of South America. Europe and exotic beach destinations like Bali, Thailand, Malaysia, Mauritius, as well as Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia remain on the top of the list of most wanted destinations.
Describe the experience a couple will have when hiring Ramona Rusu @ Travel Counsellors to take care of their honeymoon?
Once a couple contacts me with an interest in organising their honeymoon, the most important part of my process is to get to know them and understand if they already have something in mind in terms of destination/s, if they are both looking for the same type of experience and how they normally like to travel. Most of the time I discover that each one of them would like to do something different and sometimes that they never travelled together before, so they have no idea how it will be. This is why this part of the process is extremely important, as I need to understand exactly what each one of them is after and how we can find a compromise between both of them, as we need to make sure that both will enjoy the honeymoon and they will have the opportunity to try something new and exciting together. Understanding their budget is also important, as it will limit some options or open some new opportunities.
This part I do it by phone, in person, online conversation, email, etc – whatever works best for the couple.
When I am satisfied that I have enough information about what they want and what they would like to achieve from the trip, I go back and do my research and come back with some options for them. I have access through Travel Counsellors to over 70,000 suppliers around the world and I have a partnership with dnata Group as well, so there is nothing that I cannot cover in terms of destinations and products. I always try to come back with three options, one of them being the one I think matches the best their expectations and two others that would give them a bit more flexibility. These are always the starting point of our conversation and I am then available for any changes that need to be done until they are fully satisfied with the package. A package can include as little as a hotel booking or a comprehensive list of products, like flights, accommodation, transfers, car rental, tours, attraction tickets, travel insurance etc. I provide them with information on the hotels, the things they can do in that particular destination, as well as on visa requirements or general travel advice.
If a decision has been made regarding the package, I then go on and make all the booking arrangements and assist them, if needed, with a honeymoon registry. This is where wedding guests can make contributions towards their honeymoon.
I make sure they have all the necessary documentation for the trip and they receive my special honeymooners’ gift. Every couple that books a honeymoon with me will receive a gift from my side before they travel, and it’s always a gift that is linked to their honeymoon experience.
After this step is completed, I communicate with all hotels and ensure bookings are confirmed as per the clients’ requirements, and ensure that they are recognised as honeymooners; we arrange some sort of honeymooner amenities, I inform them of arrival times so they are prepared for when clients arrive and of any special requests that clients might have. If any other special occasion is celebrated during the stay (like a birthday), I make sure that it is recognised as well. If they would like to have any restaurants bookings made in advance, I do that for them as well.
I keep in touch with the couple before departure to make sure they have everything that they need and when the departure date arrives, I make sure that they are checked in on the flights, that they got the seats they wanted and any special meals if required. I issue their boarding passes, if available, from the airline and send it to them and of course, I wish them a safe trip and an amazing holiday. I make sure as well they have all my contact details and they understand that I am available for them throughout the trip if they need any further assistance and in case anything does not go as planned, that I should be contacted immediately to take care of it.
I try not to stalk my clients, but I send them a quick message during the trip to make sure everything is going well and I get in contact just before their return with the boarding passes for their return flight.
Once they are back, I give them a few days and then I get be in touch to hear about all the amazing experiences they had and get some feedback on the hotels and activities.
My main goal is that once the clients are back from their honeymoon, they are already thinking of planning their next holiday and would not consider of having it done any other way than through me.
How do you manage trust from your clients? After all it is the most time of their lives, and the honeymoon is a great opportunity to relax after the stress of a wedding.
Gaining their trust is very important and the main way through which I do it is by showing them that I care a lot about their honeymoon, about what they want, what they like and dislike, that I am very flexible with everything they need and available when they need me. I make them understand that I know that they are unique so their honeymoon should be unique and perfectly tailored to them. I don’t impose my opinions, but give advice when needed. And I try to take away from them the worry about researching destinations, things to do, hotels etc. so that they can focus on the wedding planning knowing that their honeymoon is in good hands and that everything will be done according to their wishes.
If you could give one piece of wedding planning or honeymoon advice to our readers (brides to-be) what would it be?
My biggest advice would be to start planning your honeymoon as early as possible as that will not only give you access to great deals but it will also give you the possibility to take that out of the way, focus on the million details of the wedding and give you something to look forward to once all the stress of the wedding is gone. Work with somebody you can trust and put that part in their capable hands.
Lastly, why did you choose to list with www.brideclubme.com?
I chose to collaborate with www.brideclubme.com because I think they offer an amazing service to brides and grooms and they are doing it in the most professional manner. I met Rhiannon and understood that she is as passionate about her business as I am of mine and I saw the opportunity for a great collaboration.