Just a little more than a year after undertaking a complicated merger with Mark Travel, Apple Leisure Group (ALG) in September announced the appointment of Alejandro Reynal, an industry newcomer, as its CEO. Travel Weekly senior editor Jeri Clausing talked with Reynal about his goals, challenges and vision for the future.
Q: You've been on the job just a few months. What are your initial impressions?
A: By far, I am most impressed by the passion and enthusiasm I've seen across all levels and divisions of our business. Our staff is not merely in the industry to earn a living, they have truly embraced the travel lifestyle and are sincerely invested in the company's future and the success of our clients.
Q: What's on your immediate to-do list, and what do you see as your top goal or goals for the long term?
A: Priority No. 1 is to immerse myself in all facets of the company and industry. I've been meeting with a huge variety of team members and customers, listening to what's been working, what can be improved and what's next.
I have one goal in mind: Make ALG the most admired company in the travel and hospitality industry. I'm confident this can be achieved by rolling out a more diversified, integrated and technologically driven approach, continuing to offer an ever-improving customer experience and diligently working to make ALG a great place to work, no matter an employee's rank or position.
Q: Apple executives have been candid about the unexpected challenges ALG encountered in integrating the Mark and Apple systems as well the customer service issues that resulted. Are you satisfied those have been resolved?
A: Many of the challenges have now been solved, and we are already seeing positive results from the steps we took to mitigate issues resulting from the merger. What remain are largely external issues, such as external factors that have impacted some of our top destinations. However, we are already rolling out initiatives, such as [the agent rewards program] Waves and [the marketing support site] ALGV360, that would not have been possible prior to the transition. Plus, there is much more in the pipeline, including a groundbreaking new travel protection product.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge going into a brand new industry? What are the advantages?
A: I bring a fresh perspective and a unique background on customer relationship solutions that will take our current strategy to the next level. There is most certainly a learning curve, but I am up for the challenge and have already begun to develop a perspective on where ALG needs to go to stay at the forefront of the global travel and hospitality industries, including further enhancing our relationships with the travel agent community.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit more about your background?
A: I come to ALG with a long career in international business, having worked in the United States, Europe and Latin America. I previously served as CEO of Atento, a global provider of customer relationship management and business process outsourcing services, and successfully led the company to an initial public offering in 2014. Before that I held management positions at several companies, including Telefonica, the Coca-Cola Co. and Gap Inc.
Q: A little more than a month into the job, you announced the departure of two top executives, John Hutchinson and Lynn Torrent, as well as the elevation of three others to your executive committee. What prompted those changes?
A: The expansion of our executive committee is part of our strategic plan to position our brands for the next phase in our development, especially as we move beyond integration. The travel agent community remains top of mind for us, and the appointment of Jacki Marks, Steve Dumaine and Ray Snisky to the executive committee ensures agents' needs and wants are appropriately considered and factored into our overall growth strategy.
Q: What areas of the business do you see as the most ripe for growth?
A: Our geographic expansion is absolutely a promising opportunity. Our first Secrets-branded property in Spain has been well received. And we are working to continue expanding our European portfolio, while still focusing on growing our footprint in Mexico, the Caribbean and other prime locations in Latin America.
On the vacation side, perhaps the most glaring example I can point to is the ancillary product. Our agent partners have not fully capitalized on many of the advantages of working with a vertically integrated company like ALG.
For example, travel advisors can take advantage of our model to sell more excursions and other experiential offerings beyond hotel and air. These components will not only increase the commissionable portion of the client's spend, they will ensure a better and more memorable experience overall.