Tim Mullen, president
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2018/19?
For 50 years, Apple Vacations has been a travel trailblazer. We were one of the first to introduce the “all-inclusive” concept to the U.S. market, and we developed programs to Cancun and Punta Cana before they were household names. We will continue our legacy of leadership as we look for new destinations and new U.S. gateways to open up. In fourth quarter, Apple Vacations will begin booking through VAX for travel after May 1, 2019. Additionally, over the next several months, travel agents can expect more benefits to be unveiled as Apple Vacations, Travel Impressions and Funjet Vacations unify their travel protection programs, loyalty programs, commission opportunities and more.
What is your key strategy these days and why? How does it vary from years past?
As the flagship brand of a rapidly growing ALG, we’ve been able to provide agents with … attractive packages and pricing to help close sales. Recently, we’ve expanded that focus to include digital marketing initiatives. As part of our revamped Travel Agent Café, we now provide a Social Media Agent Resources and Training (SMART) program for travel agents featuring marketing content and tools to help them promote their brand on social media and, ultimately, increase bookings.
What are your newest destinations or products in the marketplace?
We recently introduced the “Karisma Gourmet Inclusive Experience,” providing enhanced commission opportunities and marketing tools for agents selling premier Karisma Hotels & Resorts brands throughout Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. We’re also in the process of adding 50 new hotels to our portfolio. These include brands such as Generations and El Dorado Spa Resorts by Karisma, as well as La Colección by Fiesta Americana. Our travel agent partners have requested these properties and we are now able to offer them. We are also happy to have Reflect Resorts (formerly the popular Krystal Grand hotels), a new brand from AMResorts.
What is your most exotic, unusual new offering?
We are offering several new luxury resorts in Arenal, Costa Rica, which is a great base for touring the Arenal Hanging Bridges, hiking amazing trails around the volcano or spending the day in Tabacon Hot Springs.
What’s your “tried-and-true” mainstay offering that clients continue to love? Why do they love it?
Our Exclusive Vacation Flight program is the evolution of our original charter program that remains one of our most praised initiatives within the travel agent community. These flights provide cost savings and convenient schedules between popular routes in addition to operating in smaller markets where agents would otherwise have fewer options. We currently offer Exclusive Vacation Flights to Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic from more than 25 U.S. gateways and are eyeing further expansion in 2019.
Are you modifying your offerings to accommodate the desire many consumers have to “live like a local” and to have authentic experiences?
This year, Apple Vacations launched the “Agents Give Back” program, which offers travel agents across the country the opportunity to take part in numerous volunteer and donation initiatives. So far, we’ve had travel agents paint a school and plant a garden at a senior center in Punta Cana, and help Mayan women jar honey for sale in the market in the Riviera Maya jungle. The demand for these programs is huge. Our generous travel agents love to spend a day in service in the destinations they love, and many of them have collected bags of supplies to take to the volunteer site. Groups can now book a volunteer day through our groups department.
Have you seen the age of your customers change at all in the past year or so? How about their mindset?
From dietary preferences to cultural interests, younger travelers approach vacationing with a completely different attitude. Authenticity is one of the key factors agents need to keep in mind in order to be successful with this growing segment. The digital marketing tools we recently introduced to our Travel Agent Café are a great starting point for agents looking to tap into the Millennial market.