More than 900 travel professionals gathered in Oakbrook, Illinois on September 11 for Apple Vacations’ Midwest Trade Show. Attendees were greeted with booths dedicated to Apple’s key programs: Groups, Charter Flights and the Royalties loyalty program. There was a new addition to an Apple event: VAX VacationAccess. There was also a presence from executives from both Apple Leisure Group as well as the legacy brands of The Mark Travel Corporation, which have now been placed under one vacation brand umbrella, meant to support agents and the travel agency model as One ALG.
The biggest buzz around the event was the upcoming addition of Apple Vacations to the VAX VacationAccess platform. To prep agents for the integration of Apple on VAX, a dedicated booth manned by three representatives from Apple was available for agents, ready with VAX registration and training information. Even further proof of Apple’s dedication to ensure agents are ready was the two VAX training sessions scheduled at the event. Announcements reminded agents that the training sessions were starting, giving everyone a solid chance to attend.
In the 5:30 VAX training session, Gina West, national sales manager for Apple Vacations, kicked it off by telling agents, “You already know VAX as the best technology in the industry,” to which many agents agreed. After polling the agents in the room to see how many of them were familiar with VAX (almost the entire room said they were), she walked through the basic booking actions of VAX, then moved on to the technology she was most excited for: booking groups. “This new system of booking traditional groups on VAX is a game changer,” she said.
The trade show featured some of Apple’s biggest supplier partners, most notably AMResorts, whose booth was filled with AMResorts representatives, eager to connect with agents and promote their newest brand, Reflect, a collection of resorts “perfectly designed for spirited travelers.” The brand launched in June and consists of three resorts, one in Punta Cancun, Los Cabos and Nueva Vallarta. The hotels are co-branded with Grupo Hotelero Santa Fe’s Krystal brand, creating a new kind of hotel partnership in the region.
The event closed with a final presentation where Tim Mullen, president of Apple Vacations, opened with a 50-year recap of Apple Vacations, which grew from Atkinson & Mullen Travel, a travel agency started by his father outside of Philadelphia in 1969. “Many things have remained the same,” he said. “Most notably, our commitment to travel agents.” When speaking about the future of Apple Vacations, he touched on the recent merger of Apple Leisure Group and The Mark Travel Corporation (TMTC), saying “The integration of TMTC and ALG will result in many, many upsides for our travel agent partners.”