Pleasant Holidays and Journese are introducing new dynamic rate inventory in destinations such as Las Vegas, Tahiti and more, says President and CEO Jack E. Richards. The two brands are also expanding in Colombia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Europe. We spoke with Richards to get the lowdown on what's new at the company.
What are some of the newest trends you are seeing with your customers?
Surprisingly shorter booking windows. We are seeing travelers booking closer to their departure date than ever before. Most of our bookings to North America, Japan and Asia destinations are confirming just three months prior to departure. For departures to Europe, Caribbean, South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, the average booking is confirming six months out.
How have you modified your offerings to meet these trends?
Pleasant Holidays and Journese have upped our game at facilitating the needs of last-minute bookings — including same-day departures — expanding our ability to book real time rates with instant confirmations to more than 1,500 hotels and resorts spanning the globe, and expediting ticketing and document delivery services. We also launched a U.S. & Europe Airport Hotel program for travelers with early morning or late evening flight departures who wish to be near the airport in the event of weather or traffic issues, etc.
What new destinations have you introduced this year? What was the reason?
As a part of our strategic growth plan for 2019, Pleasant Holidays and Journese both added Colombia, Hong Kong and Singapore, plus Journese added Maldives luxury vacations. We continued to expand in Europe, adding Belgium and more than 100 new hotels in Paris, London and Rome.
Within the existing destinations that you offer, what new products are available?
New to our Las Vegas program are dynamic rates and inventory at 13 MGM Resorts International properties, including Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, ARIA, New York-New York, The Mirage, Vdara and others. We are rolling out dynamic rates and inventory with InterContinental Hotels Group in Tahiti, Europe, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Caribbean and New York City. We activated dynamic hotel rates with Karisma Hotels & Resorts in Mexico. We also added two new Costa Rica Guided Vacations in June, expanding that portfolio to four guided vacations in all, all with guaranteed departures for 2019 and 2020.
What are some of the challenges on the horizon for tourism in general?
Increased safety concerns of travelers and the impact of home vacation rentals, particularly for destinations that rely on tourism as their primary economic base. Secondly, we are concerned about the increase in resort fees in Hawaii and other destinations driving up the cost of the vacation.
What are some of the destinations you’d like to go in to?
We are focused on expanding our international portfolio for both Pleasant Holidays and Journese, our luxury brand. In Europe, we are looking to add Croatia and Montenegro, which are popular with “Game of Thrones” fans. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and China are planned additions for our Japan & Asia portfolio in late 2019 and early 2020.
Any unique opportunities in light of domestic or global happenings?
Every day starts with a new set of headlines that can and does impact our business, from natural events like volcanic eruptions and hurricanes to political events and safety concerns and more. Our strategy is to continue to expand and diversify our destination and product portfolios in order to stay the course in an ever-changing world. One constant with our travelers is an appreciation for family vacations. In keeping with that, we constantly work to ensure our portfolio offers a wide range of popular options for this audience, including theme park packages in California and Florida, properties near the U.S. national parks, and family suites and home resort villa rentals in Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean.
What is your focus on the U.S. travel agent for 2019/20?
We continue to make capital investments in technology to streamline the online booking process with enhanced functionality. We are developing a Groups & Incentives online booking and registration process to make it easy to book groups worldwide. Hotels with “No Resort Fees” are now listed online so travel advisors can easily identify these properties.