It’s been two years since Hyatt completed its purchase of Apple Leisure Group – and ALG Vacations along with it, and business is booming for both. In 2022, ALGV welcomed 2.6 million people and in the first half of this year, 1.4 milliion people have vacationed with ALGV. Those numbers are in large part a result of the support of the travel advisor community. It’s something Hyatt president and CEO Mark Hoplamazian doesn’t take for granted.
“We think that the most important job we have is invest in you. To make you better. To make your businesses better and stronger,” he said at this year’s Ascend conference in Cancun, speaking to an audience of more than 1,000. “In 2022 alone, we spent over $270 million in commissions, in advisor rewards, and in technology. We are improving our technology base every quarter that goes by.”
It’s the first year Hoplamazian has made an appearance at Ascend and his enthusiasm for ALG Vacations and travel advisors was palpable.
“It’s unambiguous in my mind that when you win, we win, and vice versa. This is the most aligned kind of relationship that I think exists in our entire eco-system of travel and I am really humbled that we get to do it with all of you,” he said.
While “all of you” at the conference amounted to some 650 travel advisors, more than 175,000 advisors are booking through ALGV and VAX.
Targeting high-end customers
One thing that’s been growing in importance over the past several years is the renewed focus by Hyatt All Inclusive – and now ALGV – on higher-end customers. Over the past five years, Hyatt has doubled the number of luxury hotels. More recently, the Hyatt All Inclusive Collection introduced a new luxury all-inclusive brand – Impression by Secrets – which offers all-suite, all-butler accommodations.
The average package revenue is over $1,500 and that’s up 15% year over year and up 24% from pre-pandemic times.
Additionally, Hyatt recently purchased a small boutique company in Europe called Mr. & Mrs. Smith, along with its booking engine. The average size of those hotels is about 45 rooms.
The move opens up Hyatt to more high-end customers and them into “our system,” Hoplamazian. “And you are part of that system.”
“What I didn’t understand before is the depth of knowledge that all you have about your clients. You know people’s families. You know their birthdays. You understand what they’re looking for and how to make sure that they have a great experience. You build trust. That’s absolutely as precious as anything I can imagine. And that trust is why people come back to you… Giving someone piece of mind for something that they’re spending a lot of money on is so important… and that’s your superpower.”
“My view is let’s harness that,” he added. “Let’s work more and more with travel advisors, especially for higher end guests and that translates perfectly into what ALGV does.”
The importance of harnessing the power of advisors to help target the new high-end all-inclusive guest is something both Hoplamazian and Ray Snisky, group president, ALG Vacations, agree on.
“There’s a multiplication effect,” Snisky told TMR. “We have 175,000 advisors signed up with ALGV, and each one of those has their own [network]. There is no better way to reach customers than through travel advisors.”
This year’s two-day Ascend, which sold out in just three weeks, featured 50 workshops, two trade shows, two general sessions, an opening party at Breathless Cancun Soul with fireworks, and closes with a 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop gala event at the Hard Rock Cancun.
The Day One general session was co-hosted by ALG Vacations’ global head of trade brands Jacki Marks and TV personality and former host of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” Carson Kressley. It featured a Saturday Night Live theme that saw various ALGV employees and SNL alums Chris Kattan and Cheri Oteri reenacting famous SNL skits, with an ALGV twist.
“SNL to us is the true definition of team work,” Marks said. “It’s just like this industry and our partnership. We work together to do whatever it takes to make sure the show – or in our case, the vacation – keeps guests smiling long after its over… If we, ALGV, and you, the travel advisors, do our jobs then we become part of memories that last forever.”
Before the hijinks ensured, Marks took the time to “acknowledge the passion for travel that is in this room right now. Over the past 12 months I have seen how hard you’ve worked and all that you have done to make this industry and our partnership so strong and successful… our company does not exist without you.”
She also described some of the improvements ALGV has made over the past year including adding a CRM to its call center and speech analytics to quality assurance, investing millions of dollars into security and fraud prevention, expanding the European all-inclusive portfolio, and growing the sales team.
Following the fun, the audience settled in for an inspirational keynote from author Kevin Brown. Talking on the subject of hero-hood (his latest book is “The Hero Effect), Brown spoke about how it only takes one moment in time to be a hero to someone.
He started by flipping the traditional script on its head. A hero, he said, is not an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. If that were true, we’d all first have to buy into the fact that we’re all ordinary people and that is not something he believes.
Instead, heroes are extraordinary people who choose not to be ordinary, because being ordinary is a choice – one too many people make.
He gave the example of a chef at a Disney World Resort hotel who stopped at the supermarket on her way home to pick up the ingredients to make apple pancakes for Brown’s autistic son after she didn’t have them their first morning at the hotel restaurant. It was a kindness that made her a hero in Brown’s son’s eyes and was the start of a 20+ year friendship.
“There’s only two times people talk about you,” Brown said. “When you exceed expectations or miss them completely.”
“Don’t want you want enthusiastic ambassadors for your brand? Don’t you want unpaid spokespeople telling your story better than you ever could?”
People will pay a premium for “somebody who reaches beyond what is required to do the remarkable,” he added. They’ll pay a premium for people who treat them with kindness and try to make a difference.
“That’s all heroes do. They just make life better.”
Never underestimate what you do, he implored the audience. Never underestimate the difference you can make in a single moment.
“The experience begins at hello. The experience begins with the human connection… What you do matters. It matters in big ways and small ways, in ways that you may never even know. These moments that you create, these experiences that you create, this kindness that you show matters… If you keep doing what you do, you will leave a mark on this planet that cannot be erased.”