Group business is on the rise, says Funjet Vacations & Blue Sky Tours President Ron Jacobs. And while the company is mainly known for sun-and-sand getaways in Mexico and the Caribbean, it’s seeing increased bookings for Europe, Central America and the South Pacific – particularly with the debut of fellow Apple Leisure Group brand AMResorts’ first property in Spain.
What are some of the newest trends you are seeing with your customers?
Groups continue to be a big trend; between destination weddings, multigenerational getaways and smaller groups of friends and families, the demand for this service has grown year over year, and we provide agents with the tools and opportunities to capitalize. We’ve seen an increase in travelers embracing experiences while on vacation and customers are relying on their travel agents to suggest and book these commissionable vacation add-ons.
How have you modified your offerings to meet these trends?
Our Groups department is taking on a lot of additional business and we’ve had to react to the demand we’re seeing. Our Groups technology gives agents more control over their Groups bookings, such as the ability to add scheduled air to a hotel-only contracted group reservation. They can also move money from a master payment record to individual group reservations as well as enter names and TSA information, eliminating the need to fax and e-mail rooming lists. Our Groups technology makes it easier than ever to increase revenue earned on each sale by adding excursions and other features. Agents can track all of their bookings and commissions as well as export their group reservation list to Excel, with real-time contracted hotel and charter air inventory at their fingertips. Working with Amstar as our destination management company means vacationers have more than just a ride to and from the airport — they have a resource in destination to help schedule tours and excursions to enhance their overall experience.
What new destinations have you introduced this year? What was the reason?
We have noticed more vacations being booked to Europe, Central America and the South Pacific these days. When most people think of Funjet Vacations, they think of Mexico and the Caribbean, but our product line is much more expansive. Funjet also sells vacations to Europe, including England, Spain, Italy, Germany and many more. In fact, AMResorts recently debuted their first property on the island of Mallorca with Secrets Mallorca Villamil Resort & Spa, which is bookable with Funjet. As for Blue Sky Tours, our bread and butter is Hawaii, but Tahiti, Bora Bora, Australia, New Zealand are growing as airlines increase their service and more hotels become available.
Within the existing destinations that you offer, what new products are available?
Our partnership with AMResorts has opened a lot of doors, providing travelers with experiences in locations such as Costa Rica, Panama, Curaçao, St. Martin and now Spain. Our Exclusive Nonstop Vacation Flights are deployed based on the demand for these destinations, creating opportunities for agents to earn enhanced commission while providing clients with greater value and the benefit of spending more time on vacation and less time traveling. Funjet Vacations and Blue Sky Tours now sell Southwest Airlines® air and hotel vacation packages to Oahu, Maui and the Island of Hawaii. This gives travelers the opportunity to benefit from flying Southwest® and agents get the perks they love from booking Funjet and Blue Sky Tours.
Any unique opportunities in light of domestic or global happenings?
As unfortunate as it is, agents have been able to successfully leverage cancelation fees to convince clients to protect future vacation investments with “cancel for any reason” insurance. This ensures that they’ll get their money back in the event of a cancelation, while the agent’s commission is protected up to $100. There is also the prospect for selling new destinations that may not typically be on a client’s radar; we’re seeing sharp increases in demand for Aruba, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos and St. Lucia in particular.
How are you working with travel advisors?
Our Appreciation Celebration in May was all about showing gratitude for our travel agent partners and celebrating their hard work. We also have the Ascend learning conference in September, which centers on education, networking and building relationships. As for the rest of 2019 and 2020, we are determined to make improvements in our call center with shorter hold times, self-service options and the increased level of service you have come to expect. Our goal is to be proactive and not reactive.