With the addition of Mark Travel Corp. earlier this summer, Apple
Leisure Group (ALG) is ramping up its focus on charter flights to vacation
Apple Leisure Group CEO Alex Zozaya said the company plans
to offer more charters within the Apple Vacations and Funjet brands, as
well as make Travel Impressions a bigger player in the charter space.
He added that charters are especially important to ALG's
travel agent partners.
"Travel agents are the strongest supporters of our
charter programs," Zozaya said. "We want to increase our charters and
increase the number of vacations point-to-point. The idea would not be to take
share from commercial airlines, who are also strong partners, but to create new
nonstop routes in charters to interesting points. Travel agents can then push
them and make more money. The agents always make more by booking nonstop
Apple Vacations president Tim Mullen noted that the addition
of Funjet has made charter expansion attractive for ALG.
"We probably wouldn't have added some of our new
charters if it was just for Apple Vacations. It would likely be too much risk.
But with Funjet, we're going to do it."
Apple Vacations most recently unveiled new nonstop charter
routes from the Chicago Rockford International Airport in Illinois to Costa
Rica, Kansas City to Punta Cana, and Milwaukee to Los Cabos. The company also
reintroduced two weekly charter flights from Philadelphia to Jamaica.
"OTAs don't have access to our charter inventory. And
when you have product that's exclusive to travel agents, that's huge,"
said Mullen. "We're trying to make it better for agents to compete with
the OTAs, and that's our mantra."
Changes are afoot at Apple Vacations, which accounts for
around 800,000 of ALG's 3.2 million annual customers. Last week, Mullen said
that he would be stepping down at the end of the year. ALG has initiated an
internal search to fill his position.
Just ahead of that announcement, Mullen outlined several
highlights within Apple Vacations' growth strategy, including the addition of
50 new resort partners by this winter. These brands include El Dorado Spa
Resorts by Karisma; Generations Riviera Maya, a Spa Resort by Karisma; and La
Coleccion by Fiesta Americana. Typically, Mullen said, Apple Vacations adds
just over a dozen new properties to its portfolio a year.
Additionally, Apple Vacations has extended its Agents Give
Back program to travelers. Targeted toward large groups, the voluntourism
product can be added to trips for around $100 per person.
Meanwhile, ALG continues to bolster its hotels business,
with the company recently forging a strategic alliance with NH Hotel Group to
bring its AMResorts hotel management company to Europe. That expansion includes
four hotels in Spain: two Secrets resorts, a Dreams resort and the first
property flagged under ALG's new three-star brand Amigo.
"At the 3- and 3.5-star level, there is a void in the
market. It's a part of the market that people don't tend to look at, because
3-star hotels are usually less profitable. But in reality, if you are a solid
3-star property, you can provide a very strong value proposition," Zozaya said.
"You have a hundred examples in urban areas, but it's important for the
leisure side to also have a product that is hip, fresh and fun, but not luxury."
Zozaya estimates that ALG has 23 hotels scheduled to open
within the next two years.