Funjet Vacations is bullish on U.S. travelers and the travel agents who serve them.
President Mike Going sings the praises of the groups that buy and book his company's extensive product line.
He described himself as a realistic optimist.
"This industry is not for the faint of heart," Going said. "We have all worked through very challenging times, given the economic realities, world events and changes in distribution technology in the past several years."
He sees the U.S. market as on the rebound. "The intent to travel and to spend more money is up," he said. "Demand is back, agents are selling with more confidence and consumers are buying. Agents who engage are in for a good ride."
So what's doing well for Funjet?
Its Caribbean product line, for starters. Funjet is a known brand on 19 island destinations, including the Dominican Republic, where Funjet sells packages in three resort locations, and the Bahamas, where it has a presence in Nassau and on Grand Bahama Island.
"Our products are doing well in the Caribbean, with Jamaica and the Dominican Republic leading the pack," Going said.
"There is strong demand across the board, and Caribbean numbers are holding up," he said. "The region has been selling well for two years, some of it at the expense of other destinations. The booking window tends to run between 60 and 90 days, and there are times when demand exceeds available inventory."
He credited the strong numbers to Funjet's cadre of more than 20,000 booking agents. That number "grows as our market penetration grows," according to Going.
"The agents are well-positioned to be driving not only our Caribbean offerings but also our entire product line," he said. "People are buying and coming and then coming back."
All-inclusive vacations are a big draw due to the value offered, according to Going.
However, he pointed out that many European Plan (room-only) packages also contain a number of value-added incentives, ranging from a free night to free breakfast, other food and beverage credits, spa treatments and shopping discounts.
Funjet's agents use VAX VacationAccess to sell, book and manage all aspects of their leisure travel business for their clients.
Going described VAX as "the single best wholesaling platform. We try to make our agents' lives easier and simpler. I have great respect for their knowledge of this complex market, and VAX has helped them implement special deals and simplify the whole process."
Funjet's 500 Club Program represents the firm's top-producing agency partners, recognized by Funjet as experts and rewarded with trips, marketing opportunities and preferred agency listings.
What are the next big destinations to watch in the Caribbean?
"I think all of us are watching Cuba," he said. "It's not a question of if, but when. Cuba will be a very interesting new entrant."
Going is a big fan of Mexico, as well, "along with 20 million-plus other visitors."
"Much like the Caribbean region, it has global popularity, phenomenal product, offers a great visitor experience, value for the money and air access," he said.
Funjet's Mexico packages blanket 11 resort areas on both coasts as well as in Mexico City.
Going credited hard work on the part of industry partners, the Mexican government and tourism officials in coping with the issues that have beset Mexico in recent years, from swine flu to security issues and drug violence.
"Everyone has worked really hard to look at the Mexico situation objectively and used lots of tools to help market the destination and to encourage travel," Going said.
"We see clients vacationing there and going back again," he said. "The destination is doing very well for us."
Funjet has expanded its European product, as well, and now works with 12,000 hotel properties in 21 cities, "all of which are commissionable," Going said.
"Europe is big for us," he said. "There will be more product to come."
New for Funjet in 2012 is Panama. "It's a great destination where visitors can combine a city stay with a beach stay," Going said. "We're working with 20 hotels now. We're keeping it consolidated at first."
In Hawaii, growth numbers have exceeded the operator's expectations, according to Going.
And where does Going go on vacation?
"My family and I like comfortably remote destinations with nature, privacy and a lot of amenities," he said. "The Gulf Islands off Vancouver is where we head to rent a house and sit back and observe eagles, orcas, seals and the otters in little bays," he said.
. For Caribbean and Mexico news, follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.