CANCUN -- Apple Leisure Group (ALG) is deepening its investments in cybersecurity and tools for travel advisors, with the vacation packager saying it plans to double its technology budget in 2023.
The conglomerate -- which consists of AMResorts, the Amstar destination management company, ALG Vacations and other travel brands -- said a top priority is bringing its cybersecurity defenses up to speed, something it is working on with the support and expertise of its new parent company, Hyatt Hotels Corp.
ALG Vacations group president Ray Snisky said Hyatt's existing technology networks and partners are as extensive as they are sophisticated and will be instrumental in providing ALG with the resources it needs to better protect its clients, employees, advisors and partners.
"This past year we made a lot of great technology advancements, and we have really doubled down on cybersecurity," said Snisky, speaking at the company's annual Ascend Conference here this month. "There's nothing more important than our customers' data and their privacy and protecting that."
John Ische, ALG's chief information officer and president of Trisept Solutions, said that the cybersecurity program is designed to protect customer, partner and colleague data.
"We are working diligently to protect all stakeholders in an ever-complex world of threats," he said. "It is great to see how the ALG and Hyatt cybersecurity have integrated in the past year, leveraging tools and processes."
Improvement in agent education
ALG is also prioritizing the tools travel advisors use to book the company's packages. It launched a specialist program in September called ALGVPro that enables travel advisors to earn credits and accreditation status with the company. Upon completion of the five interactive certification modules, travel advisors will earn Travel Institute continuing education unit credits and certification as an ALGVPro advisor.
"We're incredibly proud of this investment, which is helping travel agents navigate education in a much more simplified manner," said Jacki Marks, ALG's executive vice president, who also oversees the company's vacation brands. She added that the partnership with Hyatt has specifically helped to accelerate the launch of the ALGVPro program, which is also due to the hospitality company's existing technology relationships.
"It's things like that which really took our vision of having a learning management system and accelerated it," Marks said.
And so far, Marks said, the ALGVPro program has been a success, given the amount of traffic the educational module is attracting.
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"We knew it was needed, but we didn't know how much it was needed," Marks said. "In the first week that we launched, we had over 2,000 agents registered and over 500 certified in the first three days. The course takes about 4 to 6 hours, depending on how experienced agents are with us."
Snisky added that the technology ramp-up has been a long-awaited one, as a number of investments had to be paused when the company's priorities shifted during Covid.
Groups business doing exceptionally well
Hyatt's acquisition of ALG, Snisky said, has accelerated the company's work in its technology sphere, adding that the hospitality giant has been instrumental in helping to identify ALG's vulnerabilities while providing the financial backing to improve defenses.
"One of the great benefits of working closely with Hyatt is the level of detail, of understanding and experience that they brought to the table on where there are risks," Snisky said. "A big part of our resources in aligning with Hyatt is ensuring that we're protecting all aspects of the company."
He said the main area where ALG will invest its technology and cybersecurity efforts is its group business divisions, which he said was the shining star in ALG's portfolio over the past year.
According to Snisky, the company's group business revenue in 2022 will be double the amount generated in 2021, with 2023 expected to increase 25% above this year's figures.
"Our groups have had a fantastic year, and have some great early returns for next year. But there's a lot of automation and a lot of technologies that can be used to streamline that process," Snisky said. "So it'll be investments in our group department and group technology, and we'll continue to look at other ways to better understand customer behavior and data to make sure we're putting relevant products in front of folks and using different tools to help advisors be able to sell."