Apple Leisure Group Vacations (ALG Vacations) has rolled out a multi-pronged trade initiative to promote its expanded packages to Europe. Efforts include 1) FAM trips for travel advisors to Spain and Greece; 2) a limited-time 40% discount on its Cities + Seas packages; and 3) education for advisors to help them create social media content to promote the trips.
Why Europe, why now?
It is widely known that Europe offers richness and depth in its mélange of cultures, history, cuisine, and shopping. And with the travel rebound this year, numbers in Europe are up 200%, based on travel advisor feedback, according to Jacki Marks, global head of trade brands at ALG Vacations.
“We regularly survey our travel advisors and ask for feedback. In the last two years, there has been significant, increased demand for European vacations, and ALG Vacations made it our goal to be the first call for travel advisors for Europe packages, just like we are for Mexico and the Caribbean,” said Marks.
Dennis Mayer, travel advisor, Foremost Travel Group, who attended ALG Vacations’s Spain FAM this summer, told TMR this about Europe: “In the post-COVID travel time we are in, Europe is like a familiar, comfortable blanket. When dipping one's toes back into traveling, Europe is so well known to Americans, and a way to get our feet wet again after several years of no international travel.
“Americans have always had a love affair with Europe, and I don't see that stopping. It is also a great location for first-time international travelers. I find that it is a great way to introduce someone to international travel. The culture and the food are not so radically different to be too ‘foreign,’ even if it is. It puts people a little outside their comfort zone, but not so much that it scares them away.”
Judy Kurtzweil, travel consultant/office manager, P.S. Travel, Inc., who also participated in the Spain FAM, said Europe is a great destination choice now because: “There is so much beauty, history, and so many different cultures in Europe, that I think it's good for us to see how others live. It's easy to get around due to the transit systems and the ability to get from one place to another in a reasonable time. Also, language is not a barrier in most places, as many of the locals speak and/or understand enough English for basic communication.”
Cities + Seas 40% Off
ALG Vacations' Cities + Seas program in Europe was developed because “American travelers want to expand beyond Mexico and the Caribbean,” explained Marks. “And this combination is very popular with them.
“Cities + Seas European vacations offer a unique blend of history and seaside serenity. When planning your clients' journeys, remember to showcase the combination of Europe's iconic cities with nearby coastal gems. Whether it's Lisbon and the Canary Islands, Barcelona and Mallorca, or Athens and Corfu, these combinations offer an exciting, yet balanced, experience. After all, European adventures can be both exhilarating and exhausting, so make sure to weave in some well-deserved downtime for your clients after all their touring.”
Vacationers can tailor their trips to their preferences, choosing from a wide range of European cities and beach destinations. For instance, the historic charm of Athens is coupled with the natural beauty of the island of Corfu; or the cultural richness of Barcelona is followed by sun-drenched relaxation on Mallorca.
ALG Vacations takes care of all the logistics, ensuring a seamless transition between city tours and beach escapes. Vacationers can enjoy the journey without worrying about transportation or accommodation arrangements.
Mayer explained: “I think city and sea packages are appealing because it combines the experience of cultural immersion and sightseeing, which can get tiring after a while, with the relaxation of a resort or beach. I find many of my clients like to throw a few days of beach relaxation onto an itinerary to take a break from their vacation. It refreshes them. How many times do we hear people talk about feeling like they need a vacation when they get back from their vacation because the trip was so busy and tiring? City and sea can solve that problem.”
Another reason these packages are so sellable is that “most people want to travel independently, but with a lot of hand-holding,” noted Chelsea Rabeiro, founder and chief adventure officer, of Chelax Adventures, LLC, who participated in ALG Vacations' Greece FAM.
Through Oct. 26, 2023, travel advisors can book their clients an Cities + Seas package with savings including up to 40% off hotel stays and $100 instant savings from United Airlines® for travel through June 30, 2024.
In addition, the program requires low deposits of only $250 down (reduced from $350) for United Vacations Europe bookings; and $350 (instead of the full air cost) for Europe travel with AV, FJ, and TI.
We asked Marks who are the target customers for these packages, and she explained: “Our Europe portfolio is diverse and competitively priced. We work with reliable, local vendors, and we offer multi-stop itineraries with multiple transportation options. This means we can offer a wide range of prices and categories to a wide variety of clients. With that said, in a survey we conducted this year, the majority of travel advisors said their clients were planning on spending more than $2500 per person on air and hotel this year. We have many options for that price point and above.”
Travel advisors react to FAMs
About ALG Vacation's FAM to Greece on Sept. 23-30, Ashlee Brock, owner of Luxury Travel Concierge says: “I hadn’t realized that ALG Vacations was already working with tour partners in Greece and all over Europe; I knew they sold flights and properties, but I am so excited to start booking tours through them, as well!
“I'm seeing a lot of people that are ready to turn their I want to travel ‘someday’ into ‘today,’ especially post-pandemic. I'm seeing more of an investment in quality experiences, both with clients' time and dollars. I'm also seeing my clients really lean on me for suggestions (properties, tours, experiences), and it's warming to see that they are willing to put their trust in me to plan this important vacation. These FAM experiences have been invaluable for me. When a client hears that I just got back from a destination, they immediately say, ‘Whatever you loved doing, plan that for me!’”
Mayer noted something he learned on the Spain FAM: “That there are, in fact, some all-inclusives in Europe! Not a lot, but to visit some options on Mallorca was eye-opening. And that Mallorca is a really great place that more Americans should consider adding to a European vacation.”
Kurtzweil described how the Spain FAM impacted her: “When visiting the hotels, I immediately began thinking of which clients would love the property and it would be just what they were looking for. The same with the tours. There is so much history in Spain, that I began thinking of clients that would be interested in that type of tour. We saw about 14 hotels/resorts and took four tours in two cities in six days. My head was spinning at the end of the trip (in a good way), but I wouldn't have eliminated one thing that we saw. I was very excited about being able to recommend certain things and places to clients after getting back home.
“It is so beneficial to take these FAM trips to actually see the location of the properties and how convenient they are to the points of interest, Metros, etc., instead of just looking at it on maps. Being able to see the guest rooms, restaurants, and facilities helps me to share exactly how spacious the rooms are, whether it's modern or more traditional, and what the pools and facilities look like. Taking the tours allows me to be able to tailor the client's trip to make sure it fits into what they like to do and see when they travel.”
Kurtzweil also said: “A specific thing that I learned when I visited Montserrat for the first time on one of our tours, was that there are actually hotels up at the Monastery that clients can stay in if they prefer more time for hiking. I have booked a client now to stay there when they visit Barcelona next Spring.”
Tips to sell more Greece packages
Travel Market Report had the opportunity to participate in the Greece FAM last month. There were 10 hand-selected travel advisors in attendance, five respected travel influencers, several ALG Vacations staff including Jacki Marks, travel press, and American TV personality and friend of ALG Vacations Carson Kressley. A good time was had by all.
“I thought this FAM was fantastic, from the destination, properties we stayed at and toured, and things we did,” says Brock. “What made it more special was the people on this trip - the fact that ALG Vacations hand-picked the advisors and other participants was very clear; everyone was there to learn and immerse themselves in the destination.”
In addition to highlighting the travel appeal of Athens and Corfu, the Greece event focused heavily on educating travel advisors on how to create social media content like a true social media influencer. Throughout the daily activities, advisors were paired up with the travel influencers on a rotating basis for practical, hands-on instruction and challenges. As Robeiro describes: “I definitely learned a bit more about the social media platforms, what works best, and what apps to use to create reels.”
Stay tuned for another article to come later this month about social media content creation.
For now, here are several travel tips to help advisors sell more Greece packages:
- The best time to visit is May 1-November 3.
- Greece offers a rich cultural experience and true antiquities. Being so close to Venice, there is also a strong Italian influence.
- There are 300 inhabited islands in Greece, and the best way to sample more than one is to take ferries between islands rather than flying (Tour Greece can help with arrangements).
- Santorini has been rated year after year to have the best sunsets in the world, and it has three beautiful beaches.
- Mykonos is a party island, with 23 beaches, clubs, restaurants, shopping, etc. Although the season runs to November, September, and October tend to be less crowded but still warm enough to enjoy the beaches.
- The island of Paxos is one of the best-kept secrets of Greece. Situated in the Ionian Sea just south of Corfu, the island paradise is very high-end, and only a one-hour boat ride away.
- Greece has some of the best wine in Europe and offers cooking classes for foodie visitors.
- With so much natural beauty to enjoy, remember to suggest activities like hiking for active travelers.
- Advisors can build multi-destination itineraries in VAX.
- For group travel (think Mama Mia! weddings), advisors can contact ALG Vacations group department for help with the travel portion of the event.
- ALG Vacations' best tip for advisors is to go to Greece and experience it first-hand. Only then will you truly understand how to sell it.
Where will ALG Vacations go next?
ALG Vacations currently offers travel to 45-plus European destinations; and works with 26 airlines to transport travelers to Europe, 7 DMCs, and 5 car rental companies. Their top-selling destinations are Rome, London, Barcelona, and Athens; but they offer everything from Ibiza to Dubai. One of the biggest expansions is in their hotel product line, which now includes boutique properties and all-inclusives in Europe.
The high level of enthusiasm on the Greece FAM left us asking, “Where will ALG Vacations go next?” The answer is … Hyatt has the largest portfolio of luxury all-inclusive resorts in the world, with additional European resorts anticipated to welcome guests in 2024. These new additions further showcase Hyatt’s dedication to expanding the global all-inclusive portfolio and include the European debut of the Breathless Resorts & Spas brand, with a fifth Bulgarian resort - the Inclusive Collection’s third property in Sunny Beach – and the first Dreams resort in Portugal, Dreams Madeira Resort Spa & Marina. The Zoëtry brand is anticipated to debut in Greece with the introduction of Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, offering breathtaking views of Mount Olympus and the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean Sea.
Just to get you thinking about new places to send your clients in 2024 … and where to go on your next FAM.