Palace Resorts has announced that its Palace Resorts and Le Blanc Spa Resort brands will no longer be sold through any of the Apple Leisure Group tour operator brands, effective August 7. The company said that it will continue to honor all FIT and group bookings taken as of the official end date.
Palace Resorts said that the move was to strengthen its strategic partnerships with tour operators including GOGO Worldwide Vacations, Delta Vacations, Classic Vacations, Pleasant Holidays, American Airline Vacations, Vacation Express and Island Destinations. The company also said that it will continue to work to solidify its existing business relationships with the travel agency community and tour operators.
“As a Top-500 Platinum-level agency with Funjet Vacations (the artist formerly known as Mark Travel), this announcement is a bit redundant yet disappointing nonetheless,” Ryan C. Barks, a destination specialist and travel advisor with Travel Haus and one of last year’s 30Under30, tells Travel Agent. “This first happened with Sandals and Beaches, and in short order Excellence Group and Playa Group fell away as well. This has now happened with one of the best family products in Mexico and Jamaica in Palace Resorts, and others will follow.”
In 2010, Unique Vacations Inc. terminated its wholesaler agreement with Apple Vacations. Unique Vacations is the worldwide representative of Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts.
“VIP Vacations was not surprised by the news, as we have seen several hotel brands that are located in Mexico and the Caribbean opt to part ways with ALG,” agrees Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations. “I can’t speculate as to the reasons why this happened; however, since ALG also operates AMResorts, which are direct competitors of Palace Resorts in every location where a Palace or Le Blanc is located, it makes sense that they would not want their pricing, availability and promotions being shared willingly, and far in advance to a direct competitor who is also operating a distribution channel.”
“Occasionally, our model can cause angst or uncertainty with a supplier because it is very unique,” said Ray Snisky, chief commercial officer, Apple Leisure Group Vacations, in a statement provided to Travel Agent. “We overcome that with effective communication, strategic alignment and collaborative production. The reality, which has been shared many times previously, is that the great majority of all of the business of the ALG vacation brands goes to hotel partners outside of AMResorts. That always has been, and remains true today.”
Apple Leisure Group also said that it will work to make the transition as seamless as possible for travel advisors and travelers.
The move means that Palace and Le Blanc Spa resorts will no longer be available through Apple Vacations, Cheap Caribbean and Travel Impressions, as well as the tour brands that became part of Apple Leisure Group following its mega-merger with The Mark Travel Corporation: Blue Sky Tours, My Destination Wellness, Fun Jet Vacations, Mark International, Southwest Vacations and United Vacations.
Since that merger, Apple Leisure Group has been expanding its resort product, opening a number of new resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as moving into the European all-inclusive market with new properties in Spain.
What's next for travel advisors?
“Palace has been developing a robust booking engine and groups platform for direct business and travel advisors that prefer to use a tour operator can still use Delta Vacations, Classic, Pleasant, Vacation Express, AA Vacations, Island Destinations and GOGO Worldwide Vacations,” says Doncsecz. “As a Platinum agency with Palace, VIP doesn’t view this as a negative and will continue to grow our sales with Palace and Le Blanc Resorts.”
Barks says that his agency has learned to adjust how they book Palace and Le Blanc properties. “It becomes more of a burden to book resorts not available through VAX, especially with ALG holding nearly all of the chartered lift from St. Louis, but it is something we learn to deal with as professionals,” he says.
“If there is one silver lining that will end up through all of this is that now when a client goes to research properties for a trip, as clients often do, it’s harder to reach some of these products,” says Barks. “This means that our expertise, experience, and personal relationships with these hotels can be a major asset. We will see how this changes the climate of booking leisure travel in the long run, but it certainly will not change who our preferred hoteliers are. In most cases, we know who our partners are.”