John van den Heuvel, president
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2018/19?
GOGO Vacations is offering several new products and services to assist travel agents with their own product offering, efficiency and competitiveness. [We] added GO-COVERED in 2018, which is a true, 100 percent cancel-for-any-reason product, combined with an insurance offering. It starts at $99 and is bookable through our local offices or on our booking engine. GOGO Vacations is also launching a new groups technology platform, powered by SOFTTRIP in 2018. This will allow travel agents to quote, book, edit, make payments, and create reporting all online. Flex Groups [launched] the GO Groups teams in September of 2018. GOGO has also done an overhaul and re-design of its documents in 2018, making them more durable, luxe, and user friendly.
What are your newest destinations or products in the marketplace? What’s the reasoning for them?
We are now able to book Japan Rail ticket and passes for our customers. Our itineraries throughout Asia are growing every day. Three Reflect properties in Mexico were added to our portfolio because now that they are managed by AMResorts we believe that the service and product levels will greatly increase. Other new properties include Excellence Oyster Bay, Riu Palace Baja California (opening December 2018 in Los Cabos) and Riu Palace Costa Mujeres (opening November 2018 near Cancun).
Atelier De Hoteles opened two new hotels in September: Estudio and Atelier Playa Mujeres. Additional new properties are Sunscape Star Cancun (opening March 2019) and Hard Rock Los Cabos (opening May 2019). NCL’s Norwegian Bliss started in April 2018. The ship sails to both the Caribbean and Alaska depending on the time of year.
What is your most exotic, unusual new offering?
Japan is a fantastic destination where GOGO Vacations can book the full itinerary, hotels, transfers, sightseeing, including Japan Rail passes and tickets. There are very few tour operators /wholesalers able to book Japan Rail and now GOGO is one of them.
What’s your “tried-and-true” mainstay offering that clients continue to love? Why do they love it?
All-inclusive resorts continue to be one of the tried-and-true offerings. [They] lend themselves to a stress-free vacation — this is particularly advantageous when there is a group or multiple families traveling together. Our travel agent partners are able to provide their clients exclusive perks and special amenities at no additional cost with our My Time elevated vacation experience available at Excellence Group Luxury Hotels & Resorts and select Playa and AMResorts. These are VIP perks, at no additional fee, that we pass along to travel agents to gift to their customers.
Are you modifying your offerings to accommodate the desire many consumers have to “live like a local” and to have “authentic” experiences?
Yes, absolutely. We offer thousands of sightseeing options worldwide that allow travelers to fully immerse themselves in the local culture with an authentic experience. For example there’s “Street Eats by Tuk Tuk” in Bangkok; “Market Visit, Sake Brewery Visit and Cooking Lesson” in Tokyo; and “Wanna Be Italiano” in Florence (learn how to cook an authentic Tuscan meal and shop with chefs).
Are there any key challenges for your business in the foreseeable future?
We have not identified any new, or key challenges, other than the continued unknown around mother nature, manmade disasters or unfortunate events that seem to be occurring more frequently than before. We have determined we need to be one step ahead of those events with preparation on immediate action plans, which we have in place.
What is your key strategy these days and why?
Our number-one strategy at GOGO Vacations remains “Only At Your Travel Agent.” GOGO Vacations has always put the travel agent first, making them our number-one focus and only customer. We continuously look at how we can improve both the booking process and the end-to-end customer service experience for the travel agent. We want to be their partner in helping them to open up the world for their customers.