Apple Leisure Group and the Mark Travel Corp. this week announced the companies would merge, forming one entity under parent company Apple Leisure Group. Senior editor Jamie Biesiada spoke with Apple CEO Alex Zozaya, who will head the combined company after the merger.Q: Why did you decide to do this?
A: There are so many opportunities, so many synergies. There are so many things that we can do to grow and to increase the number of passengers and number of flights, and there are many things that we can do to grow the overall market. The more we grow on the hotel side, the more we grow on the passenger side, as well.
And technology, that's another great area of opportunity as a result of this merger. We're going to be able to have a better way, a more efficient, unified platform for all of our businesses. I think that it just made so much sense. It almost didn't make sense not to do it.
Q: Who approached whom?
A: It [the potential of a merger] has been [raised] several times. Sometimes they approached us, and other times we approached them. This last time, we approached them.
Q: What is it about Mark Travel in particular that drew you to it?
A: There are many things. No. 1, we are focused on very similar markets. They are more active and bigger in domestic travel -- places like Vegas and Orlando, they have a bigger program than we do -- but it's still not their core. Their core business is still Mexico and the Caribbean, and we have more passengers to Mexico and the Caribbean than they do.
We both sell many, many destinations, we even share charters, and the possibility to work now to merge under one strategy allows us to increase, for example, the number of flights, to increase the number of passengers. To invest more money in technology all together with one platform instead of two different ones.
Q: What does this mean for agents?
A: This is great news because we're going to be able to provide stronger, broader training, stronger loyalty programs -- only one loyalty program for all the travel agents.
Q: Do you expect any significant challenges during the merger?
A: There are always challenges. Our message to everybody is: embrace change.
A change is a change, and a lot of people are anxious and resistant and uncertain about changes, so obviously we will have some challenges: No. 1, integrating the teams; No. 2, integrating the technology; No. 3, finding the right differentiation among the different brands. We have to avoid confusion in the market, because they cannot all be the same, just with a different name.
Q: Are you anticipating losing employees once the merger is complete?
A: The driver of this merger is growth, and when the driver is growth, most likely you're going to need every single talented person you have on the teams.
We might relocate some of them -- not physically, but to different positions, as is natural because of the growth -- but the last thing we want to do is to lose talent.
Q: What is the main impetus behind combining these two companies?
A: What drives this merger is growth. It is not cost-cutting. We are set and focused on keeping all of our brands and keeping all of our talent; we're going to need it, because we are definitely going to grow. This is really bringing new opportunities, and better opportunities, to the consumer, certainly to the travel agents and to our business partners, such as the hotels.