Despite the surprise announcement that American Express Travel Related Services will spin off its Travel Impressions unit to Apple Leisure Group (ALG), travel agents may benefit from the move with new marketing and service tools and a solid commitment to the agency distribution channel by Apple.
In an interview with Tim Mullen, co-president, Apple Vacations, Mullen offered Travel Agent an upbeat appraisal of the acquisition. "Agents booking Apple or Travel Impressions - or both - should be very excited by the opportunities coming their way.”
“Our plan is that everything agents liked about Apple and enjoyed with Travel Impressions will be combined and offered in the future by both companies, thus agents get the best of what both companies have to offer, “ Mullen said.
As co-president, Mullen oversees the marketing, sales, e-commerce, revenue management, reservations and customer service responsibilities for Apple Vacations from the company’s Newtown Square, Pennsylvania office.
Mullen is a 25-year veteran of the firm which may rank as the largest or second-largest tour operator, enjoying solid support from agents and agency consortia.
"If anything, agent relationships with Travel Impressions will grow as Travel Impressions adds more products to offer agents and additional marketing and service tools to even further assist agents in their business," Mullen said.
"Travel Impressions enjoys a tremendously positive relationship with travel agents. Their brand is synonymous with great service and quality products that we wouldn't need or want to change," Mullen said.
In terms of commissions and incentives, nothing will change, Mullen said. "Nothing changes. Incentives, commissions, procedures and policies all remain in place. They have been a part of Travel Impressions' success and will continue to be integral to their success," he said.
Mullen believes that the acquisition will heighten agent awareness of other ALG products, which include destination management capabilities and AMResorts. "Being a part of Apple Leisure Group, our new colleagues at Travel Impressions will become more familiar with the people, products and services offered by AMResorts and Amstar.”
The deal with American Express is expected to close in the second quarter of this year, American Express said. Apple will acquire Amex’s global tour operator business, including Travel Impressions, as well as American Express Vacations International, Amex’s international tour operator businesses in Europe and Mexico, which is managed by Travel Impressions.
Under the agreement – full terms were not disclosed - Travel Impressions will be a preferred supplier of American Express Travel, Amex’s travel agency network. It will license the American Express Vacations brand and will remain the exclusive supplier of packaged vacation products and services sold through the brand to American Express Travel's customers, American Express said.
Mullen, a graduate of Villanova University with an MBA from LaSalle University, is bullish on the year ahead. “Both Apple and Travel Impressions are forecasting to have very good years and exceeding 2012 which was a good year for both companies.”
“The acquisition of Travel Impressions and the international tour operator business they manage underscores our commitment to innovation and to building out Apple Leisure Groups’ market-leading portfolio and first-class customer service, now utilizing a larger vertical platform,” said Alex Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group in the Amex statement.
"American Express Travel is committed to providing world-class customer service and the best expertise and advice when serving the travel and lifestyle needs of our customers," said Lisa Durocher, senior vice president and general manager of American Express Travel. "With this focus in mind, we made the strategic decision to sell our tour operator business and establish a partnership where we could continue to deliver award-winning vacation packages and products to our agents and customers through American Express Vacations."
“We are very pleased with the acquisition of Travel Impressions and the international tour operator business, which have an outstanding reputation for providing successful customer-centric programs and processes," said Jeff Mullen, co-President of Apple Vacations, the tour operator division of Apple Leisure Group.
Tim Mullen added, "This strategic transaction provides a tremendous opportunity to enhance the Apple Leisure Group portfolio and drive greater value and service to our customers by taking advantage of the strong executive and employee teams of both companies to promote sustained industry leadership."
“We are excited about the opportunity to drive growth and to innovate with Travel Impressions’ products and services,” said Steve Gorga, president and CEO of Travel Impressions. “This is the right next step for our company, I look forward to collaborating with the leadership team to further cement the industry leadership of Travel Impressions and Apple Leisure Group.”