What is your key strategy for this year, and why?
Our marketing footprint is expanding throughout the U.S. in order to strategically grow our business in new cities. Apple Vacations is in strategic growth mode right now. We’re looking at many opportunities to expand our sales on the West Coast, Texas and across the South.
What are your newest destinations or products in the marketplace, and why have you decided to launch them now?
Playa Mujeres is another new destination that’s taking off this year. Vacationers, who are looking for a different experience than Riviera Maya or Cancun, but like the convenience of nonstop flights to the Cancun airport, will like Playa Mujeres. It’s just north of Cancun with views of Isla Mujeres. Resorts there, like Secrets Playa Mujeres and Dreams Playa Mujeres, are brand-new, with all the luxury amenities you’d expect.
Can you take us behind the scenes? How do you determine which new destinations to go into next?
Apple Vacations works very closely with our top hotel partners — if they are building a resort in a new destination and we can get our passengers there through charter air or established scheduled air routes, we will evaluate adding the destination to Apple’s portfolio. Panama is a good example — resorts like Dreams, RIU and Hard Rock are there, and Copa Airlines has nonstop flights from multiple U.S. cities. We think Panama has a lot of potential with U.S. leisure travelers who like history and culture, but also enjoy a top resort experience.
Once you decide to go into a new place, what do you do to create a product that’s ready for today’s consumer?
As the largest wholesaler to Mexico and a leader in many of the other destinations we serve, Apple Vacations seeks reputable hotel partners who can provide travel agents with aggressively priced vacations loaded with value-added amenities. We periodically send our own staff to visit the resorts we sell in order to update our “Apple Rating” for the property. As for ground operators, we use Amstar dmc whenever possible as it allows us to control the guest experience and ensure 100 percent customer satisfaction. In addition to Mexico, Amstar dmc is active in Jamaica, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Outside these destinations, we partner with local operators who share our incredibly high standards for service and quality.
Are there any key challenges this year for your business?
We continue to see our groups and, more specifically, our destination weddings business demand grow. We are challenged to stay in pace with this growing demand, but we are on top of it as we have expanded our groups department this year by over 20 percent. We also continue to improve our booking engine for travel agents and, after years of hard work, will be adding much-needed new functionality during the course of this year.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2017?
We’re excited to launch a new Travel Agent Café for agents this spring. Our new travel agent portal will house information about Apple Vacations’ latest sales and travel agent incentives. The Café also provides 24/7 support and materials agents can use to promote and influence travel, including tools agents can embed into their own agency websites, as well as links to shareable social media content across a variety of platforms — from Facebook to Spotify. Every week, we update our agents on the latest trends, exclusive specials, industry news and share other valuable insights designed to help our valued industry partners sell travel more efficiently.