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Destination Weddings

Canceling group booking?

I'm brand new here but I really need to vent to someone who isn't personally attached to my wedding and I have questions of all the experience here.

I have been going through Group Booking Hell the past few months.  I originally contacted a travel agency in February to get a group booking quote for my invitations.  However, after a month of going back and forth with the agent with no real quote in sight I went in to talk to the agency owner about the issues we were having and to request someone else.  The issues were numerous.. Ranging from her getting a quote for the wrong week to being openly hostile when i asked for another gateway to be added to the quote (it was included in the original request but she forgot) to not returning emails for days and then not answering my questions when she did.  The agency owner was very apologetic and passed me off to another agent who she promised would get everything sorted. 

Well, to this agent's credit she has provided a quote but not much else.  She knew the quote was needed for our invitations but when Westjet (we're Canadian) provided it they only gave us just over 2 weeks to put down deposits, which I thought was crazy considering our wedding is in November.  Its also pretty impossible when you consider the invitations weren't even printed or mailed yet.  When I contacted her about this she didn't seem to see anything wrong with that timeline.  I had to beg her to call WJ back and extend the deadline for us which took another week, so we have been given roughly 3 weeks to mail invites, have them arrive and then harass our guests to put down deposits by the deadline.  The invites went out a week and a half ago and my guests are starting to receive them now so she called a few days ago to inform me she only has information for us and if we don't get a minimum of 25 bookings the price will likely be increased.  I find this odd as she originally told me we needed a minimum of 10, but maybe someone with WJ groups experience can chime in on this?
In any case, I was panicked and started calling my guests right away to ask if they were going to use the group booking package and if so, to book ASAP, which is when I discovered that the current price on the WJ Vacations website is $150-350 (depending on departure gateway) cheaper than our group booking rate.  And no, it doesnt appear to be a promo price.  Suffice it to say that most aren't enthusiastic about paying the cost of an excursion more just to be with the group which will obviously affect our group numbers.  My fiance and I had a heart to heart about it last night in that for the 4-6 people that I spoke to that required the flexibility of putting down a deposit instead of paying in full, is it really worth it to pursue?  Especially since the TA has been awful to deal with anyway? 
My biggest reservation is that we have already sent out the invites offering the group booking and I'm uncertain of how that might affect guests if more do plan to use it.  Also the TA's details are on the invite and i worry that if a cancel this, she might sabotage anyone who calls her who hasn't "got the memo" about the cancellation.  I emailed the TA last night asking a bunch of questions and letting her know where we stand but I still haven't heard anything back (and I know she checks her email almost hourly).

So I guess my biggest questions are:
Has anyone had to cancel their group booking and are there implications if no deposits are paid yet?
Are group bookings generally THAT much more expensive or is my TA looking to make a hefty commission off us?
Has anyone just had guests book their own arrangements for travel and where there any issues?  Were the guests

I appreciate you reading my 'novel' and giving me a chance to unburden myself!

Bridgit

Re: Canceling group booking?

  • I can't help with the first, but I can give you my experiences with the last few questions.

    2.  Yes they can be. When we first asked ou TA for prices, they were higher than any on discount travel sites. Plus, they had pretty strict rules about cancellations and deposits. We ultimately didn't go that way, and did't block of any rooms.

    3. Of the 60 people we have going to our wedding, only one had a problem booking air and hotel on his own. And that was because he only wanted to stay 2 nights and the resort has a 3 night minimum. He's staying at a nearby hotel insead. Everyone found great deals on dfferent travel sites, and the majoriy of guests are at the same resort. Some chose to stay elsewhere. We haven't had any problems. The wedding is 4 weeks out we had people booking up until yesterday. No problems. *knock on wood

    "There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness." -Friedrich Nietzsche, "On Reading and Writing"
  • KikiMiraKikiMira member
    1000 Comments Fourth Anniversary 100 Love Its Name Dropper
    edited April 2014
    My brother is getting married in Cabo in Oct. Her family works for WJ and her mom is a high up manager. The most they would budge on 2 week time line to book was 4 weeks. Its just how WJ is. They sent out the invites Oct 15th and had the group booking set up for nov 1st, all deposits had to be paid by Dec 1. I know they booked through Marlin Travel. My brother thought with the tight timeline for the deposits they would have less than 25 people respond... They had 56 people RSVP and pay deposits.

    To me, that seems odd it is more expensive, usually you get a bit off the trip, I would be suspicious as well. I know they get commission on each person booked, typically $50-$100 per person. That could be the price difference.

    Honestly, if you want the flexibility for a trip, (deposits and booked when people can) You should look at doing a DW in the USA. We are doing ours in Vegas, We put together a group booking at the hotel, which expired 30 days before the first date of arrival as well as set up a group discount code with WJ for flights. Everyone booked their own stuff and had the option to book when they could. No one seem to have an issues. Otherwise doing a destination wedding to an area with a lot of flights down and back during the week would make it easier for people to book through where they see fit. However this could open it up to unexpected guests... You know that guest that RSVP'd no but found an awesome last minute deal. 

    Anyways, I hope that helped a bit.
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