Last week, Apple Leisure Group Vacations (ALGV) executives, team members, suppliers, and travel advisor partners gathered at the Dreams Vista Cancun Resort in Mexico for the group’s annual Ascend Conference.
The conference, the first since news broke that Hyatt would be purchasing ALGV, marked a new era for the team at ALGV.
“It’s been a long year and a half and no Delta variant is going to stop us from having this conference,” Jacki Marks, ALG’s executive vice president said on stage during the conference’s opening session last week. “We are still standing and we are stronger than ever.”
For Ray Snisky, the Group President at ALGV, the deal was a surprise not in that ALGV got new owners, but who the new owner was.
“I knew we would be purchased by someone but I did not expect it to be Hyatt,” he said. Hyatt announced in August that it entered into a definitive agreement to acquire ALG for $2.7 billion in cash. The deal doubled Hyatt’s resort footprint, making it the largest operator of luxury hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Speaking last week, Snisky said that the deal was a testament to just how big of a segment the all-inclusive space has become.
“Right now, there is an arms race going on in the big box hotels and many of them have slept at the wheel for a long time and looked down at the all-inclusive space,” he said. “That product has just gotten better and better.”
Snisky said he has had five meetings with the CEO of Hyatt, Mark Hoplamazian, who had previously said that the deal represents a large investment in a leisure travel space that Hyatt continues to be bullish on. Snisky said that those meetings has left him “inspired” because “he respects so much of what we’ve accomplished.”
ALGV, which is so far having a better year in 2021 than it did in 2019, will remain a distinct division within Hyatt and will have a seat on the company’s executive committee. While there is no such thing as “business as usual,” Snisky doesn’t anticipate there being any major changes to the relationships that ALGV has built with its advisor partners.
“I can tell you not one time when the deal was struck did they ask about commissions. That would never work because we can’t be successful without travel advisors,” he said.
Advisors are this year’s conference.
Hot destinations and service updates
On-hand in Cancun, Snisky said that “everything starts with” that destination since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cancun has thrived since February 2020, becoming the go-to destination for so many North Americans wanting to travel but unable to do so to other places.
For ALGV, Cancun “has been fantastic” with times over the last 18 months when it was 50% of its business.
Aside from a “hiccup” with the Delta variant, consumers have become more and more comfortable the further into 2021 the calendar has turned. According to ALGV data, almost every single group of travelers, starting with Baby Boomers, are more inclined to travel now than they were at any point in the pandemic.
Anderson Hernandez, the SVP of contact centers and operations, took some time during the executive round table to talk about delays that advisors experienced at points during the last 18 months when servicing that growing consumer base looking to travel through ALGV.
Part of the reason of long hold times was because the volume of calls coming in, especially during the first few months of the pandemic. The goal for Hernandez and his team is always first-interaction resolution, which happens somewhere between 70% and 80% of the time.
The team has spent a lot of the last year training new people and reinforcing those training methods in both new hires and current employees. While that training did cause some “ups and downs this year,” Hernandez said that over the past couple of months ALGV has been able to stabilize its service levels.
“I feel very proud about our team,” he said.
By the end of 2021, ALGV will launch some tools to help its advisors, including a refund calculator and new augmented and quality assurance capacity that Hernandez hopes will only improve the service levels again.
Michael Ehlers, the vice president of groups at ALG, also spoke about the optimism he feels in his area for the future of the company.
“I have never been prouder or more optimistic about what we are building in groups – I see all the hard work that is going on behind the scenes,” he said during the executive round table.
While there was some difficulty hiring, an issue that so many companies inside and outside of travel have had to deal with over the past 18 months, things are picking up on the hiring side.
“We are going to continue to bring in new team members but it goes beyond the people too,” Ehlers said. Otherwise, the team at ALGV is continuing to keep improving processes, including turning on promo codes quickly and speeding up the time it takes to send group quotes.