PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic -- "We're back!"
That was the simple but enthusiastic message ALG Vacations president Ray Snisky delivered here Thursday as the company welcomed top-selling advisors to its first big rewards trip since the pandemic.
And while the crisis isn't over, executive vice president Jacqueline Marks said, "we are on the other side."
"Every day blows us away," she said, noting that bookings currently are trending 30% over comparable periods in 2019.
In some recent days, Snisky said, that number has hit 40%, "and that means you guys are doing your job."
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More than 340 people were present for the three-day event at the Secrets and Dreams Royal Beach resorts here for ALG's 500 Club Silver program, the first of three rewards trips the company has scheduled in the coming months for its Silver, Gold and Platinum tiers of advisors.
During the opening session, Snisky and Marks talked about the challenges and lessons from the pandemic, which they said have positioned ALG to emerge stronger.
Pre-2020, as the company was completing its merger with the Mark Travel Corp., Marks said, "we were becoming the company that we always wanted to be."
Now, she said, " we're going to be a different company."
She and Snisky thanked agents for sticking with the company throughout the crisis, which Snisky said resulted in more than 1.1 million passenger cancellations.
And they detailed improvements, many in back-office systems, that the company is focused on to improve service for agents. Snisky said his top priority is speeding up and providing faster direct connections to the company's special-requests desk.
The company also remains focused on providing agents the information they need in the fast-evolving landscape of travel, he said.
"Right now, we're in the confidence-building business," Snisky said. "We've got to make people feel comfortable. We've got to give them good information."
He also credited ALG's fast move to providing free Covid-19 tests and quarantines, if necessary, with keeping the travel recovery on track after the U.S. government last year moved to require all travelers entering the country to show proof of a negative test.
"I'll be honest, I was terrified when that was announced," he said, given estimates that 30% to 40% of those with the virus are asymptomatic.
Since then, however, he said only .06% of the 140,000 guests who have traveled with ALG Vacations have tested positive.
"That shows commitment [to safe protocols]," he said. "People are finally wearing masks. People are getting tested before their trips."