Traveler confidence is improving, but restoring customer confidence and removing travel barriers remain Apple Leisure Group's biggest hurdles in recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, said the company's CEO, Alejandro Reynal.
"We are working hand in hand with all the stakeholders in the industry, making sure that at the end of the day we are able to restore traveler confidence -- making sure that we can provide a seamless end-to-end experience that is also safe," he told advisors during the company's virtual Ascend conference Wednesday.
And he emphasized the advisors are key to helping the company regain traveler confidence.
"Travel agents are very important to us, and an important part of our business, and they will continue to be," he said. "Your expert advice provides an amazing value to the passengers, and it's important as we build back that traveler confidence. You are very much needed."
Reynal made the comments during a panel with other ALG executives, who also addressed advisors' questions about policies on cancellations, commissions and refunds and long hold times with its call center.
Anderson Hernandez, who heads the contact center, said during some weeks after the Covid-19 travel shutdown, call volume was double what the company usually experiences, and that the calls often involved longer, more complex conversations than usual.
ALG Vacations president Ray Snisky said that since the outbreak, the company has had 400,000 reservations, representing more than a million people, request to cancel, but it able to keep 40% of those on the books.
To meet call center demand, Hernandez said ALG has increased team member hours and will be hiring more people to staff the phones as travel begins to ramp back up.
Executive vice president Jackie Marks said the company will extend through 2021 the ability to change reservations without a fee, but that it has decided against paying commissions at the time of final payment because travelers are simply making too many changes that would require the commission payment to be retracted.
Still, she said, ALG remains committed to the advisor community, "So we'll never say never. The time is just not right for that right now."
Likewise, Marks said the company has no plans to eliminate cancellation fees, as "it's not in the best interest for any of us to have customers just walk away."