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The leadership team at Apple Leisure Group (ALG) sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
The company has spent the past five months in a state of adjustment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has recently reported a rise in group bookings, an increased interest in all-inclusive hotels and international travel, and new products designed to help travel advisors emerge from the crisis.
“We’ve seen some great ramp up and — knock on wood — we haven’t seen any issues at all,” said Ray Snisky, president of ALG Vacations, during a Sept. 29 press conference. “I think you’re seeing people who want to travel, and there is certainly pent-up demand.”
Clients are increasingly looking at shorter booking windows, he said, with 40% of company bookings going toward trips to Cancun due to the destination’s flexible flight options, new hotel inventory and appealing price point.
“The fact that things are going well, and customers have a desire to travel, is very optimistic for us moving forward,” he said.
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Groups Bookings Are Driving Travel’s ReturnNew group reservations contracted in the past four weeks have surged, with a 75% increase in bookings year-over-year. Cancun, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are currently leading the sector, according to Mike Ehlers, vice president of groups for ALG.
ALG is “very bullish on groups moving forward,” said Snisky, adding that he is “pleased with the number of groups [ALG] has been able to recapture.”
“Many of the groups were kept on the books and rescheduled for later time periods, he said. “That part of our business has become so powerful over the last few years. [Group trips have] an emotional connection with clients, and [are] a big driver of their return.”
That part of our business has become so powerful over the last few years. Group trips have an emotional connection with clients and is a big driver of their return.
Five-Star Hotels ‘At a Four-Star Price’Five-star hotels are top of mind for international travelers, with some being sold at “four-star prices,” Snisky said.
“Guests want to stay at a place they trust, and they want brands they know are going to follow the protocols and not cut costs in any way, and where the safety of the customer is paramount,” he said. “The top of the quality chain is winning the market share battle.”
All-inclusive options are also a popular choice right now, while “independent and non-branded hotels are going to need more help than ever before,” said Alex Zozaya, executive chairman for ALG.
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And when it comes to hotel developments within Mexico and the Caribbean, those that were in the early stages of planning and construction have been put on hold, because “nobody wants to add supply to already contracted demand,” Zozaya added.
Nobody wants to add supply to an already contracted demand.
However, he predicts there will be immense change in existing hotel portfolios, including more renovations, consolidations and ownership changes.
Rhetoric Surrounding the 2020 ElectionAdding to the uncertainty of travel’s future is the upcoming U.S. election.
“This particular election is very important,” Zozaya said. “The way it’s going to influence [travelers] depends on what the discourse will be right after the election. If the rhetoric becomes more unified — less in the sense of increasing or tightening borders and restrictions and more about a united global effort — that’s going to help the mindset of the consumer.”
Zozaya added that he doesn’t anticipate travel policies changing in the short term, regardless of who wins the presidency, because policies are likely to remain until a COVID-19 vaccine is made widely available.
Resources for AdvisorsTravel advisors looking for marketing materials would do well to check out ALG’s ALGV360 platform, especially if they’re looking to dive into new niches or change their marketing plan, said Jim Tedesco, vice president of sales for ALG.
Additionally, the company’s new Walking on Sunshine campaign is focusing on the “rise to recovery” according to Scott Wiseman, senior vice president and general manager of trade brands. The campaign features “a collection of tools to keep the travel advisors in the know.”
A variety of webinars that include information on new ALG products, along with custom content based on travel advisor needs, are also available.
The DetailsApple Leisure Groupwww.appleleisuregroup.com