PHOTO: A Travel Impressions event at Dreams Playa Mujeres Resort & Spa. (Photo by David Cogswell)
Travel Impressions held its 21st annual Best of the Best event Nov. 17-20 at Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa resort at the northeast tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, about a 40-minute drive from the Cancun airport.
It was the first of the annual events to be attended by Scott Wiseman, the president of Travel Impressions, who came on board last summer. Wiseman replaced Jeff Clarke, who was Travel Impressions’ previous head, who is now chief operating officer of Unique Vacations.
At its Best of the Best conference, Travel Impressions gathers its top producing travel agents, 175 of them this time, and treats them to a long weekend at an all-inclusive resort. The event included a general session, in which the company updated its partner agents on new developments and plans; a series of receptions and meal functions that doubled as networking events; a trade show for suppliers to display their products, and a number of activities for entertainment.
ALG’s Brand Diversification
The Apple Leisure Group’s hiring of Scott Wiseman, who formerly headed Abercrombie & Kent USA and later Cox & Kings USA, to lead its Travel Impressions brand sends a clear message to the marketplace that ALG wants to position the brand as a premium brand, and let its sister brand Apple Vacations, cover the mass market.
Appointed last summer, Wiseman was attending his first Best of the Best conference. He said he has spent the first months of his term as president “listening and asking” and getting to know the team of Travel Impressions as he prepares to guide it through its next stage of development.
With his experience working for some of the top luxury tour operators, Wiseman was obviously tapped for experience in the luxury tour market that can help Travel Impressions to become master of the upper tiers of vacation packaging.
Peter Bowler, president of ALG Distribution, put it more simply. Wiseman was hired to “grow the company.” Since ALG purchased Travel Impressions from American Express in early 2013, it has tried to grow the company along the lines of its own brand identity as defined historically, Bowler said.
Peter Bowler, president of ALG Distribution, said that ALG allows Apple Vacations and Travel Impressions to develop independently along their own lines, consistent with their respective brand values. Clearly, Travel Impressions’ identity is defined as a higher end niche than sister brand Apple Vacations. There is “little overlap” between the respective brands’ markets, Bowler said.
The conference incorporated the services of various components of ALG’s vertically integrated structure. The event was staged at Secrets, a brand of AMResorts, the hotel and resort arm of Apple Leisure Group. Ground transportation was provided by Amstar, ALG’s destination management arm. And the Travel Impressions team was present in full force to keep the event functioning smoothly.
ALG operates 200 dedicated charter flights a week from points in the U.S. to Mexico and the Caribbean, and even has a direct-to-consumer brand, CheapCaribbean.com.
The top priority for Travel Impressions in 2016, Wiseman told travel agents at the general session, had been to achieve more competitive pricing. The New York-based company is also working on growing its west coast market.
The company recently introduced a loyalty program for travel agents called LoyalTI First and a price match chat system. For next year, the company’s first priority will be education, Wiseman said. Travel Impressions University, an online travel agent training program, will be launched in January.
The company will begin beta testing a new reservations system in early 2017. The system is based on the Quest system, which is familiar to many travel agents but is expanded with new functions designed for Travel Impressions. The new system will integrate back office functions between Travel Impressions and Apple Vacations.