Mark Travel touts merger perks at summit

CANCUN — Mark Travel Corp. officials on Thursday opened the company’s annual summit by detailing some of the changes coming
under its recently completed merger with Apple Leisure Group (ALG), assuring travel agents that the “marriage” will be meaningful and profitable for

ALG is retaining Mark’s brands, among them Funjet Vacations and
Blue Sky Tours, but is dropping the Mark Travel corporate name at the end of
the year.

Jacqueline Marks, ALG’s executive vice president of trade
sales and engagement for vacations, reiterated past promises that rewards programs,
commission rates and core products will remain basically the same, while
announcing the rollout next year of a new top tier in its cash-based rewards
programs that will let their best sellers earn the top commission across all of
ALG’s now much larger portfolio of products.

“So the more you book with us, the more you earn,”
she said, explaining that if 80% of an agent’s business is with two brands and
not much with others, top-tier agents will still earn the top commission across
all of ALG’s brands.

One slight negative on the horizon, she said, is that with
rising baggage fees the company next year will drop a provision in its trip
insurance program that currently gives those who buy it one free checked bag.

Additionally, she said ALG is working on a new program
called TripTrust to address recent concerns about the safety of Mexico, where
reports of two deaths from suspected tainted alcohol earlier this year drew
headlines across the United States. 

The program, she said, will use a third party to certify “hotel
health standards to give you a better tool to sell Mexico.”

The biggest selling point of the merger, which she likened
to a marriage, is its ability to put all of the two companies’ hotel, jet
charter and vacation package products into one easy-to-access system.

Lisa Pease, director of sales and service at Wisconsin’s Fox
World Travel, one of the Midwest’s largest travel agencies, said the changes
look promising.

Her main hesitation, she said, is how the merger will impact
customer-service levels.

“That is my biggest concern, quite honestly,” she
said. “Because when we are dealing with Apple Vacations and there is an
issue we immediately go to Funjet because we know that our customers will be
taken care of.

“So we’re hoping that the best of both companies comes
together. We’re hoping that the customer service of Funjet kind of leeches into
Apple Vacations, and with Apple Vacations we’re looking forward to their
pricing, their competitive pricing, and their brands, AMResorts specifically.
It’s wonderful that we can now sell their products.”

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