In the keynote address at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) State of the Industry Conference in Saint Thomas, Apple Leisure Group CEO, Alex Zozaya, said his vision of Caribbean travel is about selling authentic experiences in the islands. “It’s important to preserve both the environments and the cultures in this region. If potential visitors can’t see how each island is different, everything looks like a commodity, the only differentiator is price, and then we’re in trouble.”
No surprise, then, that Apple wants its hotel guests to see and experience destinations. Besides, he says, “Every time they leave the hotel, we make money.” But wait, there’s more: Unique experiences “make people more likely to come back to a place. It also lengthens their stay. And when they return home, they’ll talk with their friends about the things they did.”
Zozaya feels that the Caribbean’s greatest rival is travel within the U.S., but Apple Leisure Group is effectively doing something about that. Two years ago, he notes, 40 percent of the people his company brought to the Caribbean had never before left the U.S.
He knows that the Caribbean has even more potential. “The U.S. should provide 25-30 million tourists to the Caribbean a year, twice what it does now.” And getting back to the importance of authentic experiences in making that happen, he adds, “we want to preserve this part of the world for generations of visitors.”
When Zozaya says that Apple Leisure Group has “a unique vertical integrated model” of doing business, he’s not exaggerating. In the keynote address, he also explained how Apple Leisure Group handles distribution of travel, owns resorts, and operates a destination management company.
- Distribution: Apple’s tour operators are Travel Impressions, Apple Vacations and CheapCaribbean.com. Forty-year-old Apple Vacations alone carries more tourists to Mexico and the Caribbean than any other tour operator in the world.
- Resorts: “AMResorts is the fastest-growing company in North America,” says Zozaya. “We now have 40 hotels in 21 destinations, six different resort brands, and 15,000 rooms.” Of the six brands, Zoëtry is the most luxurious, followed by romantic Secrets and the more social Breathless, then Dreams and Now (which does a lot of group business), and finally, four-star Sunscape.
- Destination Management: Amstar has grown to more than 600 employees who create and promote excursions and experiences in 12 destinations.