New Apple CEO and D.R.’s Minister of Tourism Address Advisors at ALG’s First Ascend Summit

by Daniel McCarthy
New Apple CEO and D.R.’s Minister of Tourism Address Advisors at ALG’s First Ascend Summit

ALG's first Ascend conference. Photo: Daniel McCarthy/Travel Market Report

At Apple’s first ”Ascend” conference at Drury Lane Theatre just outside of Chicago on Tuesday, the group’s new CEO spoke to Apple’s advisors for the first time.

Alejandro Reynal, who took over for Alex Zozaya, shared some supportive words for advisors and for Apple Leisure Group (ALG) staff, telling attendees that “I’ve only been here for a week,” but “I’ve been impressed by the energy and the enthusiasm I have seen in the last two days.

“I am going to strive at ALG to do the best for you.”

Reynal comes to Apple from outside of the travel industry. He was the CEO at Atento, a technology company that was focused on CRM and business processing. Though Atento isn’t in the travel space, it is in the business of adding value to its clients, which he sees as the same role he will have for ALG’s advisors.

“I come from an industry that placed a lot of emphasis on the customer and on customer experience,” he said. “I am hoping to learn from you and to provide a lot of value to you through this journey.”

While Reynal’s background has seen him help bring Atento public with its IPO in 2014, Apple has not made a decision yet as to whether to not to take the company public, according to Executive Chairman Alejandro Zozaya.

Dominican Republic minister of tourism
In one of his first addresses to the industry since the Dominican Republic became the subject of a string of news that has hurt tourism in the country, Minister of Tourism Francisco Javier Garcia also addressed attendees at ALG’s conference on Tuesday.

Garcia, who is now tasked with helping the country get over the bad headlines that have plagued it over the past few months, called out media for misleading the public about the dangers of traveling to the Dominican Republic. He called the coverage “attacks” and “something that can happen tomorrow at any other destination” in the world.

He criticized two big points of the media’s coverage — the first was that there was a “spate of deaths” in the country. According to Garcia, 20% fewer Americans passed away in the DR in 2018 than in 2017; and in the last three years, the DR has seen a reduction of 56% of American deaths. In 2019, the year the coverage got particularly bad, there have been 25% fewer deaths than in 2018.

He also criticized that the media was calling the deaths “mysterious.” For most of deaths that happened in 2019, there have been medical explanations, he said. In only one of the cases is the country still awaiting the FBI to release toxicology information, for the last ten weeks or so. The DR, Garcia said, has finished its own toxicology report on the deaths, but will not publish before the FBI.

Garcia urged advisors with clients unsure of traveling to the DR to put the deaths, and perceived danger in the DR, in context. The country right now has a Level 2 warning from the U.S. State Department, which says that travelers should “exercise increased caution.” That is the same warning level as Spain, France, Denmark, and Belgium — something that “should make us all feel proud,” said Garcia.

“What you’re absolutely sure of, when you speak to a client who has doubts about going to the DR, when you tell them that it’s safe, you are speaking the truth,” he said. “Nothing has changed. The Dominican Republic is still the same place you all know.”

Despite the headwinds, the minister is confident that the worst is over for the Dominican Republic. And that a huge repositioning campaign that the tourism department is undertaking will help make a difference.

“We have no doubt that we will recuperate. The discussion here is, ‘Will we get over this fast or slow?’ We want to get over this fast. The only way we’re going to do this quickly is if professionals such as yourselves support us. We count on you.”

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