NEWTON SQUARE, Pa. -- Apple Vacations is celebrating its 35th anniversary with Caribbean business up 68% in 2004 over 2003, a 13% increase forecast for this winter and expansion and partnerships planned for the region, according to Tim Mullen, president.

Our bread-and-butter packages are the beach vacations we offer to more than 230 resorts in 20 Caribbean destinations, Mullen said. Our new Exotic Caribbean package lineup offers 10 new destinations, including Barbados, Bonaire, St. Vincent, St. Barts, the British Virgin Islands, Tobago, St. Kitts, Guadeloupe, Belize, Grenada.

(Apple also offers packages to Costa Rica; Hawaii; Las Vegas; Branson, Mo.; and U.S. ski areas but has no plans to expand to Europe, Mullen said, although he did not rule out expansion to Latin America and South America.)

Mullen said that the mass market is Apples focus, and the 30,000 agents we work with are indispensible to our success. We have always been sold exclusively through agents.

He attributed the upswing in 2004 business to the return of the demand for travel following the flat years of 2002 and 2003 after 9/11.

We make it easy for agents to book our direct charters and packages, and 80% of our agents book online with us.

Apple pays more than $140 million in commissions each year, Mullen said. That incentive, plus several others, accounts for the phenomenal loyalty of our agents.

Incentives include annual trade shows, overrides, fams, cash bonuses, free air for companion travel (effective in January) and Apples 4-year-old Royalties Rewards program, which awards points redeemable for air travel and merchandise.

Apples new Preferred Agency Partnership Levels feature three award levels, based on booking volume, where top producers can earn free seats, free and discounted advertising and exclusive fam trips.

Although Apple offers scheduled flights, USA 3000 is its mainstay in the air charters.

We have 16 A320s in single-class configuration with a seat pitch up to 32 inches, Mullen said. Bucking the trend, we offer free movies and a choice of two meal entrees.

Hot Apple destinations include the Dominican Republic, especially Puerto Plata, Puerto Cana and La Romana; and Jamaica, including Negril and Montego Bays Rose Hall area.

Apples typical clients range from 25 to 55 years old; most prefer all-inclusives; more than 75% book top-category rooms; and more and more bring the kids with them, Mullen said.  Repeat guests account for 65% of Apples bookings.

Apples Web site,, which points consumers to agents in their region, generates more than 1.5 million leads a month.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].


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