On July 9, Apple Vacations will start selling
tours to Cuba that will be operated by U.S.-based Cuba Travel Services. Travel Weekly’s
Michelle Baran spoke with Apple Vacations
President Tim Mullen about the company’s
first major product launch since Mullen returned to the helm of the company at the
start of the year.
Q: How long has Apple been eyeing Cuba?
A: We’ve been eyeing Cuba for
the last five years, knowing
that at some point in time the
travel embargo would
hopefully be lifted.
Q: What makes you
think Apple customers will want to take a
A: The simple reason
is that our customers
have been asking for
it. And they’re asking
for a price point that is
lighter than the ones
that have been out there. There’s limited
capacity to sell Cuba ... so it’s not going
to be a huge product in our product portfolio. Getting in now with Cuba with what
we’re allowed to sell, that being tours,
also puts us in a position that if the travel
restrictions are fully lifted we can go more
into a wholesale beach vacation position.
Q: How important was the fact that Cuba
Travel Services has secured charter air in
deciding to partner with them?
A: It was big. Cuba
Travel Services is
the best in terms
of experience and
expertise. But what
really puts them
far ahead of their
competition is their
charter air availability out of Miami on Sun Country and
American Airlines. And they’re looking
to expand that with us through other airports, the first of which is most likely to
be [New York’s] JFK next winter.
Q: What kind of opportunity does Cuba
A: Should governments change regula-
tions on the Cuba and U.S. side of things
for travel, who knows? There are plenty of
beautiful beaches to grow the destination
for mass tourism.
Q: Could the soaring popularity of Cuba
ultimately have a negative impact on
travel to other Caribbean destinations?
A: For now, no, Cuba will not have an
impact on other Caribbean des-
tinations simply because of
the limited capacity it has
to even support the Amer-
ican demand right now in
any sizeable way. How-
ever … when it does
get there and their
prices are competitive
with their competitive
set, then other desti-
nations that appeal to
the mass fun-and-sun
market will have to re-
main competitive and
reinvent themselves as
they typically do.
Q: Can we expect to see more new products or destinations from Apple?
A: Where you’re going to see growth,
certainly Cuba because the opportunity
presented itself with the recent easing
of restrictions. But we’re also looking at
growing significantly in Central America,
specifically in Costa Rica, Panama and
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: What keeps us up at night is technol-
ogy. Tour operators
that don’t invest
every year a signifi-
cant amount of their
profits into technol-
ogy really cheat
real opportunity in
the future. We’ve in-
vested with Bain Capital in a tremendous
amount of technology that’s being devel-
oped now, for instance in our new book-
ing engine for travel agents, which we’ll
unveil in the fall. We want it to be the best
booking engine. We think it’s going to be
the best booking engine. But until travel
agents tell us it’s the best booking en-
gine, it will keep me up at night.
Apple Vacations In fact, several
hotels in Trinidad
popular stops on
the visitor circuit
along the country’s
south coast, have
been forced to divert
some French and
German guests to private homes in order
to accommodate the growing numbers of
Americans, according to a blog on Hotels-mag.com.
Richard Branson was his usual
flamboyant self on June 22, arriving via helicopter, and flanked
by models, for a downtown Miami press conference about the
plans for Virgin Cruises (TC, as
per usual, did not).
Outfitted in red sneakers, red
shorts, a white short-sleeved shirt with
epaulets and a red skipper’s hat, Branson
was also far-and-away the most casually
dressed of the five men sitting at the dais.
Not for long, though. After he lamented
the manner in which most people dress for
business (i.e., uncomfortable), he took scis-
sors to the ties worn by Bain Capital’s Ryan
Cotton and Vincenzo Petrone of the Ital-
ian shipyard Fincantieri. By the time Bran-
son reached Miami-Dade County Mayor
Carlos Gimenez at the end of the table,
Gimenez looked like he wanted to run. In-
stead, the mayor could do little more than
profess his affection for the tie as Branson
severed it in just a few snips.
Switzerland is known for its political
neutrality, but there’s no way TC can stay
neutral about having to pony up $90 for a
casual lunch for two at a hotel.
Expedia’s Hotels.com division just
put out its second annual Club Sandwich Index, which attempts to gauge
the typical cost of a hotel meal at
some of the world’s most visited
cities. And for the second year,
Geneva came out as the most
In fact, the average bill at
a Geneva hotel for a burger, a
club sandwich, a cup of coffee and
a glass of red wine came out to $89,
a whopping 19% higher than No. 2 Paris
and 45% more than New York (which is
the site’s most-expensive U.S. city for hotel
On the other end of the spectrum, that
lunch for two costs about $31 at an average hotel in Bogota, Colombia, and $33 in
Mexico City — or about a third of that Geneva tab.
FRIENDS & COLLEAGUES
he steady stream of U.S. tourists to Cuba is creating
capacity problems in the smaller tourist hotels in the
colonial cities well outside of Havana, TC hears.
‘With Cuba, we’re in a position
that if the travel restrictions
are fully lifted we can go into
wholesale beach vacations.’
Crystal Cruises has named Bruce
G. Setloff vice president of global
charter sales and special projects.
Setloff brings more than 35
years of luxury customer service,
sales, hotel, operations and project management expertise and
will oversee the management of
specialized sales, charter sales
and future special projects.
He most recently worked at
Azamara Club Cruises.
Grace Bay Resorts in the Turks
and Caicos promoted Thierry
Grandsire to the post of executive vice president of operations.
Grandsire previously served as
group director of operations of
Grace Bay Resorts and general
manager of Grace Bay Club.
He will be responsible for
overall operations of Grace Bay
Club as well as Grace Bay Resorts’ branded properties, The
Residences and Villas.
Travel Impressions promoted Erin
McCarthy to the position of vice
McCarthy began as a reservations specialist at Travel Impressions at the age of 20.
She most recently served as se-
Three new members have been
elected to the MAST Travel
Network’s Board of Directors:
Jill Loveless of Carefree Travel,
Delavan, Wis.; Rosann Corpo-longo, Eclipse Travel, Homer
Glen, Ill.; and Karen Daly, MK
All Around Travel, Oak Lawn, Ill.
Dick Fislar of Picture Perfect Travel, Rock Island, Ill., was
re-elected to the board, and the
board retained him as chairman
Rail Europe has appointed Zine
Belhonchet, CFO of Rail Europe, the overseas business unit
of VSC Group, to the additional
position of CEO and president
of Rail Europe Inc., the legal
entity of Rail Europe in North
Belhonchet has served as the
CFO for the Rail Europe global
business unit since May 2014.
He joined Rail Europe in 1997.
4 JUNE 29, 2015 WWW.TRAVELWEEKLY.COM
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