FOR the travel and bridal industries, the honeymoon is far from over. Vacationing newlyweds are spending more money, adding to the industries' delight over this reliable, profitable sector in an often tempestuous travel market.
Some 1.1 million couples will take a honeymoon trip this year, says Tom Curtin, travel advertising director for Modern Bride magazine in New York. This number has stayed constant in the past decade, after a peak in the late '70s and early '80s, when many baby boomers got married. But annual revenues are rising, in part because couples now travel to more distant, exotic locations, Mr. Curtin says.
Since more men and women are delaying marriage, couples have more money to spend, says Bruce Thiebauth, president of Bridal Fair Inc., an Omaha, Neb.-based bridal trade-show producer. Honeymooners account for 25 percent of pleasure-travel business, with the average couple spending $2,946, Mr. Thiebauth says. But the cost is closer to $5,000 for the one-third that travels outside the US, according to a 1993 Bridal Fair survey.
``Its a perfect arena to cater to the real upscale consumer.... The luxury segment runs about $1,000 a day,'' says Ingrid Tarjan, a travel-industry consultant with New York-based FIND/SVP. But for more modest budgets, $1,000 will cover a four-day package at a Hawaiian resort.
Eleven percent of newlyweds will honeymoon in June - the traditional wedding month, Curtin says. Only 5 percent will travel in January, but honeymoons are spread out fairly evenly through the rest of the year, he says.
Where do couples go? One-third to the Caribbean, according to a 1992 American Demographics survey. Hawaii, Mexico, and Europe are also popular, Ms. Tarjan says.
``We've also seen an increase ... going to Tahiti [in French Polynesia], Fiji, Belize, Costa Rica, and Greece,'' Curtin says. ``And there are many people who spend part of their honeymoon in the US and part abroad, flying to New York and spending several days there before going to Europe, or stopping in San Francisco on their way to Australia.''
Honeymoon cruise bookings have tripled in 10 years. ``We may have the `Love Boat' to thank for that,'' says Thiebauth, speaking of the 1980s TV show. ``Honeymooners enjoy all-inclusive trips, like cruises, where they don't have to pack and unpack, and meals and entertainment are taken care of.''
Chris Provo, 27, and his wife, Pam, 25, took a one-week cruise to Bermuda this month on the ``Song of America.'' The Paxton, Mass., couple saved money by taking a four-hour bus trip from Worcester, Mass., to the New York dock the morning after the wedding. ``We saved several hundred dollars doing this instead of flying to New York,'' Mr. Provo says. ``We figured we'd be tired and sleep most of the way.''
The Provos are a little older and farther along in their careers than those who married 20 years ago. A study by Modern Bride magazine, using government statistics, shows that in 1974, the average bride was 21; today, she is 25. The average groom in 1974 was 22; today, he is 27.
Social attitudes have also changed. ``The honeymoon is now seen as a time to get away and have a good time versus a time to get to know each other,'' Tiebauth says. Some couples are going on honeymoons that feature many outdoor activities, such as camping or hiking in Alaska.
Some even bring along friends and families. Many family members must travel long distances to get to a wedding, explains Gerard Monaghan, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants, a New Milford, Conn., trade association. ``You don't bring the family in for a 15-minute ceremony and then say `goodbye,' '' he says. As a result, weekend-long weddings have become popular, especially in scenic areas like California's Napa Valley. And when couples with children get married for a second time, a wedding can become a family affair set near Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Niagara Falls, once the honeymoon capital, is making a comeback as a weekend wedding destination, says Chris Shiah, owner of the Niagara Wedding Chapel/Jojean's Florist in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Business has doubled since he opened the chapel last year, and he says he has sold 300-plus combined wedding and honeymoon packages, many for couples celebrating second marriages or those renewing vows, who want a shorter vacation.
Niagara Falls was a popular spot early in the century because it was easy to get to by railroads that connected Buffalo, N.Y., to New York and Chicago. Business fell off as car and air travel became popular. Couples arrive on Friday, get a marriage license, and then sightsee during the state-required 24-hour waiting period, he says. They get married the next day and then spend their wedding night near the waterfalls.
``The scenery is beautiful. It's a great, romantic weekend,'' Shiah says.