Apple Vacations, Apple Leisure Group: John Tarkowski, President

A new technology platform has allowed Apple Vacations to expand its product line significantly, says President John Tarkowski. In addition to more offerings in the Caribbean, Belize and the South Pacific, its fellow Apple Leisure Group company, AMResorts, is undergoing unprecedented expansion. 

What new destinations have you introduced this year? What was the reason?
In fall of 2019, we will be introducing quite a few new sun and sand destinations. In addition to more Caribbean, Apple Vacations will offer Belize, the South Pacific and new domestic products. Our new technology platform has afforded us the opportunity to significantly expand our product line in a short time period due to increased connectivity, so we can complement our existing portfolio and offer travel agents and our customers the added options they have been asking for. While we add hotel product every year, we haven’t added many new destinations for a while, so we’re really excited about our expanded portfolio.

What are some of the newest trends you are seeing with your customers?
Experiential travel is in hot demand — Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X consumers want to fully experience the unique attributes of their destination. Our sister company, Amstar DMC, continues to expand its tour offerings throughout Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. The growing group travel market, from destination weddings to multigenerational travel, wants unique experiences that can be customized for their group. Today’s seniors are living longer, healthier, more mobile lives and are eager for quality time with their kids and grandchildren. In general, leisure travelers expect more, not only in terms of experiences and added luxury, but also focus on wellness initiatives and social responsibility / sustainability.

How have you modified your offerings to meet these trends?
We’re adding many new destinations which I’ll address next. Amstar DMC offers customizable tours for groups. They continue to add excursions geared to the adventurous traveler — camel safaris in Cabo, zip lining and rappelling waterfalls in Mexico and the Caribbean, aerial canyoning and white water rafting in Costa Rica — the list goes on. Travel advisors can plan out a client’s entire trip complete with excursions, which increases the commissionable portion of the client’s overall spend, and helps ensure a positive experience in line with their unique interests. Health conscious travel is on the rise and hotels are accommodating this trend with their menus and activities.

Within the existing destinations that you offer, what new products are available?
Last fall, we added Reflect Resorts and Spas, La Coleccion by Fiesta Americana, El Dorado Resorts by Karisma, and many new properties in Costa Rica and Panama. AMResorts continues its unprecedented expansion this year. New hotels opening in 2019, on sale now, include Dreams AcapulcoDreams Vista Cancun, Now Natura Riviera Cancun, Now Emerald Cancun and Sunscape Akumal. Also on sale now are the new Hard Rock in Los Cabos, and Secrets St. Martin, scheduled to open in March 2020.

What are some of the challenges on the horizon for tourism in general?
Our biggest challenge, along with that of travel advisors, is how public opinion is shaped by click bait or incomplete news reporting. Minus the complete facts, these sensationalist narratives can mislead travelers about the experiences that await them in some of the most popular destinations. It is often up to the travel advisor to break through the noise and ensure clients receive the full picture.

Any unique opportunities in light of domestic or global happenings?
Our Agents Give Back program provides travel advisors with the opportunity to give back to not only their own communities, but to the destinations they sell. Apple Vacations launched this highly successful program in 2018 and continues to expand on it. We’ve collected thousands of donations for the USO, packed meals to ship overseas for the “Feed My Starving Children” organization, and offered a number of international humanitarian fams. With the help of Amstar DMC and our excursion partners in resorts, Apple Vacations’ staff and travel advisors nationwide planted fruit and vegetable gardens and painted classrooms in Punta Cana, donated items and organized a library in Los Cabos, bonded with pediatric cancer patients from Puerto Vallarta and treated them to a swim with dolphins, and helped the local people in a remote Mayan village outside Riviera Maya prepare organic preserves to sell at market, promoting sustainability and environmental education.

Apple Vacations, Apple Leisure Group: John Tarkowski, President