Three months after Apple Leisure Group (ALG) acquired the Mark Travel Group, Jacqueline Marks, ALG’s executive vice president of trade sales and engagement, vacations, sent a letter to the travel agent community apprising them of the progress of the merger and reassuring them about their prospects working with the company going forward.
As with any merger, the combining of ALG and Mark Travel — two of the largest wholesale vacation package conglomerates— has raised concerns among those who have done business with either side of the merger as to how it will affect their relationships going forward. Marks addressed those concerns head on.
Directed to its travel agent partners, Marks’ letter said, “We appreciate the questions you have asked; we are listening and are excited to share several updates today on how we will help you continue to grow your business.”
Dedication to the travel agent channel
Marks assured travel agents that ALG continues to be dedicated to them, “now more than ever.”
Three months into the merger, all of the wholesale vacation brands continue to thrive, she said, including Apple Vacations, Travel Impressions, Funjet Vacations, Southwest Vacations, United Vacations, and Blue Sky Tours. Although ALG will “sunset” the name of Mark Travel, she said all of its brands will continue to be integral to ALG.
Combining brand availability and loyalty programs
The company is moving toward making all products of ALG available through all of the wholesale brands. ALG brands AMResorts and Amstar DMC will become available through former Mark Travel brands Funjet Vacations, Southwest Vacations, United Vacations and Blue Sky Tours. Fiesta Americana Hotels and Resorts will be available through Apple Vacations, and Travel Impressions and Karisma Resorts will be available through Apple Vacations. ALG’s charter services will become available through all of the brands.
With greater purchasing clout than ever before, ALG promises to be able to offer the most competitive prices and promotions. The company is launching the first of what it calls a “One ALG” sale across Apple Vacations, Funjet Vacations and Travel Impressions. Southwest Vacations, United Vacations, and Blue Sky Tours are currently running sales.
ALG is also in the process of merging the loyalty programs of its various brands into one, but the loyalty programs will continue as they have been previously through the summer of 2019.
VAX VacationAccess booking platform
ALG’s acquisition brought with it the electronic booking platform developed by Mark Travel’s technology division, Trisept Solutions, and now Apple Vacations and Travel Impressions will soon become accessible through VAX.
Travel Impressions is expected to be available at the end of September; and Apple Vacations is expected be available beginning May 1, 2019. For new adopters of VAX, ALG is offering training on how to use the platform.
Unified leadership team
The merger of brands brings with it the combined power of the leaders of those brands. ALG’s team now includes Tim Mullen, president of Apple Vacations; Scott Wiseman, president of Travel Impressions; and Ron Jacobs, president of Funjet Vacations. All are continuing in their previous roles, as well as some shifts in the management team.
John Tarkowski is taking on the role of ALG’s senior vice president of sales, overseeing the combined sales team, which includes Barbie Groves, Sam Combs, Barb Windish and James Kareka.
Lynn Torrent, as executive vice president of ALG and president of vacations, is overseeing all of ALG’s wholesale brands. Jeff Mullen is continuing as chief operations officer for ALG Vacations. Mike Ehlers is now senior director of groups. Ray Snisky is chief commercial officer of ALG Vacations.
In addition to information provided in ALG’s letter to agents, Marks personally addressed questions posed by Travel Market Report:
With ALG absorbing some of its largest and strongest competitors, what are the advantages for travel agents and consumers that balance out the reduction of competition and choice in the vacation package marketplace?
ALG is comprised of the strongest tour operator brands in the industry, providing travel agents with more options and more unique product, as well as the best technology and opportunities to earn. This will ultimately help them attract and retain customers.
What are some of the advantages that ALG’s buying power and vertical integration can bring to travel agents?
Agents will begin to see even better pricing offers and value-added amenities. Our first major sale for Funjet Vacations, Apple Vacations and Travel Impressions launches this Friday. Agents can also take advantage of the largest charter flight program in the industry offering differentiated and better product, which helps agents sell and earn more commission. Ultimately, we can help agents compete with the OTAs in ways others cannot.
What is the purpose behind cutting Playa and Excellence from the product line of ALG?
All parties entered negotiations in good faith and made considerable concessions in an attempt to make these relationships work. We simply couldn’t reach an agreement that would satisfy all parties.
Can we expect to see more of that kind of elimination of products from the ALG offerings?
We believe we have the right hotel relationships that align with the ALG strategies and meet the agency’s needs. In addition, there are new hotels opening and we are expanding our dynamic access to even more properties in all destinations.
How do you see the realignment of the travel industry and how does that affect ALG’s position in the marketplace?
Travel agencies continue to evolve and the business models are more complex. We have designed our organization with these changes in mind. Our external and internal teams focus on not only storefront agencies, but have strategies to reach the home-based and IC travel agents, as well. Our technology and programs will continue to grow with the changes of the industry, as we remain committed to providing the tools and differentiated product our travel agent partners need to thrive and grow.
Who does ALG see as its competition?
The competitive landscape is broader than ever. From online companies to big-box wholesalers, along with traditional tour operators, there is a fight for the travel customer. The merger of ALG and The Mark travel Corporation allows us to deliver the tools, product and value so agencies can focus on their knowledge and service. We want to empower them to be the best option for their customers.
What changes can we expect to see from ALG going forward?
Our focus is simple. We want to create changes that make agents more successful. We will bring together the technology, policy and programs for ease of booking. We will also look to provide greater earning opportunities when booking all ALG brands. We will provide greater sales and value for their customers.