Apple Leisure Group Looks to 2020 After Trying Year

Apple Leisure Group (ALG) kicked off its first—and what will be annual—Ascend conference for agents by assuring them that their challenging year is just about over.

On Tuesday, Jacqueline Marks, executive vice president of trade sales and engagement, said sargassum on some Mexico beaches, the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8, overblown reporting on deaths in the Dominican Republic and “some self-inflicted issues” made for a perfect storm.

“I truly do feel that in the last few months, the fruition of our work is starting to come together. We’re starting to feel the momentum; we’re starting to feel the changes. We’re excited about 2020 in a way we’ve never been excited before.”

She credited travel agents with being patient and providing feedback that allowed ALG and its brands to improve as ALG was merging with The Mark Travel Corp. “I do believe that your feedback has created the changes—the phone calls are better, the speed of answer is better and the talent is more trained. We’re not there yet—I’m not here to profess to all of you that we’re over the finish line—but 2020 is not that far away, and we have the right plan.”

The Ascend conference opened Sept. 16 and is taking place in suburban Philadelphia through Sept. 18.

The plea to spread facts and not misinformation about the Dominican Republic was made by ALG Executive Chairman Alex Zozaya and Lucien Echavarria, Northeast director of the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism.

“The Dominican Republic needs our help,” Zozaya said. “It could be hundreds of thousands of jobs lost out of nothing. Absolutely nothing happened…there is absolutely no danger.”

Currently, the U.S. State Department shows the Dominican Republic at a level 2 advisory, which is the same as other Caribbean islands such as Turks and Caicos and even France and the U.K. The level 2 advisory hasn’t changed since April. The Caribbean saw a sizable 7.9 percent increase in U.S. visitors between 2017 and 2018, and the number of Americans who died of unnatural causes in the Dominican Republic dropped from 17 in 2017 to 13 in 2018. Neither the Centers for Disease Control nor the FBI have issued any warnings in regard to tainted alcohol. For more information on this, visit travFACTS.

Echavarria said the Dominican Republic has created a new multi-lingual emergency center in Punta Cana, which acts as a liaison between tourists, their families and government entities. The country doubled its inspection capacities and increased compliance standards in tourist destinations.

Also, reinforced mandates require that emergency information and the availability of 911 is clearly posted in every guest room. Plus, hotel staff is required to review the information with each guest upon check-in to emphasize access to emergency services and support.

Zozaya also urged agents to continue sending clients to the Bahamas, since areas such as Nassau and many resort hotels suffered little to no damage.

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