Less than one month after the Mark Travel Corp. ended its long-standing partnership with Mexican ground operator Lomas Travel in May, competing packager Classic Vacations tapped Lomas as one of its destination management companies (DMCs) in the Mexican Caribbean, a move that stands to help Lomas regain lost Mark Travel business and potentially bring Lomas-loving agents over to Classic.

"I think there's definitely a winning proposition for both parties," said Classic Vacations president David Hu. "From our perspective, Lomas is [a company] we've always felt very aligned with in terms of their operating philosophy. They have a very human touch to the way they do business." And, he added, "They have a huge following" with agents.

Hu acknowledged that the agent angle was a big part of the draw. He said that in the first week after Classic said it had partnered with Lomas, it had already received "fantastic feedback" from agents, including potential new agent clients who are interested in Classic now that they're linked up with the DMC.

The 37-year-old, family-owned and -operated Lomas had been Mark Travel's primary Mexican Caribbean DMC for 30 years, and Mark Travel had been Lomas' top business source. Following Mark Travel's May 1 merger with Apple Leisure Group, Mark appointed Apple-owned Amstar as its DMC in Cancun, effective June 13.

The move was a blow to Lomas, which according to Dolores Lopez Lira, general director of Lomas Travel and co-founder of the company with her husband Joe Martinez, had developed a relationship with Mark Travel that had come to feel more like family than just business.

"Mark Travel was a significant partnership, for which we handled upward of 415,000 passengers [each year] with the transfer business alone," said Lopez Lira. "The loss of their business is significant in many ways."

She said Lomas plans to "work tirelessly" to ensure that the livelihood of its 1,500 employees will not be impacted in any way by the move.

The partnership with Classic is one way to do that, along with developing other partnerships and working directly with agents, which Lomas does as well. Lomas also has numerous other businesses. Lomas Travel is a part of Grupo Lomas, which includes transportation, catering, wedding, activities, entertainment, media and communications businesses. It also owns hotels, including El Dorado Spa Resorts by Karisma, Generations Resorts by Karisma, Hidden Beach by Karisma, El Cielo Winery & Resort by Karisma and the Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya.

Lomas heard from many Mark Travel agents who were "saddened as we are by Mark Travel's decision," said Lopez Lira.

"We absolutely adore Lomas. They have built such a great DMC that provides outstanding service," said Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations.

"It was such a huge relief to see that Classic Vacations was now partnering with Lomas, as I was worried that without Mark Travel, many Lomas employees would face layoffs," Doncsecz said. "I truly believe this will draw agents to using Classic, as Lomas has a very strong reputation and has built strong bonds with travel agents all over the USA and Canada."

Mayaland Tours continues to serve as Classic's primary provider in Mexico, but as of this month, agents who book Classic can also book Lomas for transfers and land tours in the Cancun area.

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