The Mark Travel Corp. (TMTC) opened its fifth annual summit for travel agents at the Grand Moon Palace Cancun with an update on the “marriage” with Apple Leisure Group (ALG).
The opening session kicked off Thursday morning with Bill La Macchia Jr., son of the Mark Travel founder and a board member of the merged company, as he led in a team of TMTC and ALG executives.
In all, he said, 565 travel agents from 248 agencies are attending this year’s summit, the most ever, representing about $400 million in revenue.
Lynn Torrent, executive vice president of ALG, promoted the new tag of “One ALG Vision: Combine two market leaders to create the biggest and the best! We all win!” That means a more differentiated product, more promotions and specials, and better technology to help you be more efficient and effective.
Jacki Marks, executive vice president of trade sales and engagement at ALG, said she knew many agents found the Mark Travel-ALG merger “shocking” since many saw the two companies as “fierce competitors.” But at the same time, there was “a lot of respect across the organizations.” They began “secretly dating” for about a year and a half, “understanding what each company was really made of and would this work for the future of the travel industry.” Eventually, they realized that the two organizations “would be better together than we were apart.”
She called it a “marriage, saying “merger sounds so corporate” and revealed some of the changes that would take place.
The Mark Travel name will disappear by year’s end. “Like a marriage, one person gives up a name, usually, but that doesn’t mean that person is giving up who they are; they and their soul become part of something bigger,” Marks said. “The La Macchias’ vision, passion, and dedication move on with all of us. The La Macchias aren’t going anywhere; they’re part of the board of directors. It’s kind of the end of an era but the beginning of a new chapter.”
Regarding charters, “in our new world charters will be available across all of our brands – Funjet, Travel Impressions will all be selling all of those Apple Vacations charters,” she said. “All the brands will have the same inventory and the same prices, and we will share one common platform for charters. Our hope is we can bring you more charters.”
As far as pricing, “Apple Vacations and Funjet have a more common-based pricing model,” Marks said. “They’ll still have differentiated sales – different super sales or air credit sales – but we don’t see the need to fight each other over price. We want to give you the best price possible across those two brands.”
There will be no decreases in the 2019 land-based commission structure, she said, and a common commission structure is in the works. Also planned is a “super tier” that would give agents who meet a certain production level the highest commission across all ALG brands, even if most of the product booked is with just one or two brands. “We want you to book more eggs in our ALG basket,” she said.
In addition, the loyalty program will remain unchanged until summer 2019. It will continue to be a cash-based program and will likely be available across all vacation brands. Also, every ALG company will continue to have their own rewards and recognition programs, such as the 500 Club and TMTC Stars.
Another interesting development nearing launch is “Trip Trust,” which will “certify” properties in Mexico as safe and secure by a third-party specialist. This is in response to a survey that found that 71 percent of agents said they experience some struggles selling Mexico due to negative articles about safety in the mainstream press.
It’s an issue Bill La Macchia Jr. addressed in his opening remarks.
“What’s most important is you and the facts you present,” he said. “The media do what they do, but first-hand knowledge is most important. That’s why we created the “I’m Included” campaign. “It humanizes what it means to enjoy a vacation in Mexico,” he said.
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