All-Inclusive Adventures with Apple Leisure’s Jacki Marks

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Fasten your seatbelts as we embark on a journey with Jacqueline Marks, Executive Vice President of Apple Leisure Group. Starting with a rapid-fire round revealing Jacki’s travel preferences, we swiftly transition into the dynamic world of multi-brand vacations, charter air services, and the evolving landscape of all-inclusive holiday packages. Jacki also brings along insider travel tips to upgrade your vacation game and shares her unique experiences of managing corporate transitions.

Later in the show, we dig into the hottest travel deals with Jessica Deverson, discuss the controversial topic of “skip lagging”, and evaluate the impact of AI on the travel industry. Plug in your headphones, sit back, and let the adventure begin!


Mike Putman: Good day everyone. I’m Mike Putman.

James Ferrara: And I’m James Ferrara and welcome to No Tourists Allowed.

Mike Putman: Yes, welcome. Uh, It’s good to be back. Uh, and on a somewhat consistent basis, this will be two weeks in a row, james. This is a record for us, but, uh, glad to be back. We’ve got a very special guest today.

James Ferrara: It is very hard to have a travel podcast and be a travel professional. Because, uh, Mike and I are on the road all the time and makes things a little difficult and we’ve had some other challenges this year. I should say, mike, this is week three of my new teeth and I’m, I’m getting progressively better.

I have a Hollywood smile, that’s for sure. Still tripping on my words a little bit, but I’ll get there. So thank you all for your podcast patience. Mike, you mentioned we have a, a very special guest and, um, and you’re right, we’re continuing our discussions on this podcast with, uh, leaders in the travel industry, some of whom you know, some of whom you may not be familiar with.

But these are all very high level people. And this week continues that. We have a good friend of ours Jacqueline Marks, Jacki, we call her. I hope that’s okay. She is the executive Vice President of Apple Leisure Group with a, a 20 year plus career with Apple and its related brands now and for some of you that might be a name that doesn’t bring a bell.

But amazingly it is one of the largest leisure travel distributors in the world. So, uh, we want you to know more about it. We’re gonna talk with Jacki about. What brands are there? There’s a whole resort management part of the business, and you will recognize some of those brands.

Great all-inclusive resorts and famous resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico and the Dominican Republic. You may also not know that they are the nation’s largest provider of charter flight and really the largest vertically integrated seller of all inclusive vacation packages in US, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and probably several other places.

So let’s bring on the real expert on all of this. And we’re gonna, we’re gonna talk about travel, both travel from an industry point of view, but also some personal travel things with Jacki Marks. Welcome Jacki.

Jacki Marks: Thank you so much for having me, James and Mike and I, I think if you didn’t have such a good job, I might have to hire you because you clearly know our company very well, which we appreciate.

James Ferrara: Well, we’re, we’ve been great partners together, InteleTravel and Apple and all the related brands. And, um, and you’re also, you know, you’re pretty cool. You’re good to be friends with too in the industry.

Jacki Marks: Yeah, we’ve had some fun trips together for sure.

James Ferrara: So Mike does this thing with our guests all the time. So we have a rapid fire little personal survey about some of your travel stints. So, you willing?

Jacki Marks: I’m always game.

Mike Putman: All right, well these are rapid fire questions, Jacki. So. Just, uh, one word or short answer, uh, we just want our, our listeners to learn a little bit more about you personally, and we think the best way of doing that is sharing through, um, travel preferences, if you will. So, uh, first question is what is your favorite destination?

Jacki Marks: Heart of our company, Riviera Maya.

Mike Putman: Riviera Maya. So for our listeners out there who might not fully understand what Riviera Maya defines, could you do that real quickly?

Jacki Marks: Yeah. So the destination that you fly into that most people think of is Cancun. But Cancun has multiple areas of it that is beyond just the core downtown zone that people think of. You have the Riviera Maya area, you have the Port of Morales area, you have the Isla Mujeres area. So it’s a destination that sometimes, uh, if you don’t understand it, you don’t realize there are multiple areas of it.

And just because you fly into Cancun doesn’t mean you stay in Cancun. You stay in in some of these other spectacular areas as well.

James Ferrara: I was recently in Tulum and, uh, Playa del Carmen, all of which you access through Cancun.

Mike Putman: Absolutely. All right, so the next question, Jacki is this is a real softball here, but what is your favorite hotel or resort chain or brand?

Jacki Marks: Okay, so your listeners may not know what this is when I say it, but it would be the Hyatt Inclusive Collection, which, uh, is better known by one of our two uh, main properties in there, which is secrets or dreams. But Hyatt inclusive collection is the overarching umbrella of all of those different resort brands.

Mike Putman: And it just so happens that’s your favorite brand too, huh?

Jacki Marks: it is, but I will be honest with you. Funny story that I’ll share with you is, uh, you guys know my history and I came from a company prior to the merger that, uh, could not sell these properties due to, um, just a, a fiercely competitive situation. And I got so much feedback about these properties in the position I was in, and I couldn’t sell them.

So one time I tried to do a site inspection and get on property to see what all the hype was about, and they actually wouldn’t let me on. They knew who I was and they’re like, “no, you can’t come on.” So, um, after we went through the merger and uh, we got to start selling them, I actually finally understood what all the hype was about.

So even though it is part of our company, I can say that for a long time before it was part of our company, it was something that I knew was highly demanded, and I just never understood why until I could finally experience it.

Mike Putman: Yeah, and I got a chance to experience it last year as well. My, uh, niece actually got married at Secret, so. We had a, a great experience, had quite a few people down there and, um, the staff did a tremendous job and it was a very spectacular wedding.

Jacki Marks: Which secrets were you at?

Mike Putman: Mujers, Playa Mujeres.

Jacki Marks: Oh, so my daughter just a couple months ago got married at Dreams Playa Mujeres, which is the sister property that’s connected to Secrets. It’s a very, very popular, uh, resort for that reason.

James Ferrara: I guess my invitations to all these weddings got lost in the mail.

Jacki Marks: Yeah. Um, yeah, I think so. You know, we, kind of maxed out. We actually had the largest wedding that the destination, uh, in our chains have ever seen. We had 215 guests. And so we, we really rivaled, um, many of the weddings that had been there before. So we, they did it and they did it with grace and class and it was amazing.

James Ferrara: Great, congratulations.

Jacki Marks: Thank you.

Mike Putman: Yeah. And my last question for you, Jacki, on this rapid fire question is, what is the best excursion you’ve ever been on?

Jacki Marks: Oh, so this is an easy answer for me. So, in Vallarta there’s, I’m gonna have to give you a two part answer. Vallarta is a destination that has more excursions that I think people don’t know about and should know about. So there’s an excursion in Vallarta called outdoor, I think outdoor adventure Zipline and speedboat, where you take a speedboat across to this like jungle area where you, you know, repel down waterfalls and you zipline through this area.

And you ride donkeys up the mountain to get to the area that you’re gonna zipline. It’s just this really fun, high energy excursion. But I also have to say in Puerto Vallarta, we took a day trip over to Sayulita and we learned to surf. It’s one of the few destinations in Mexico, Caribbean where you can surf.

So for me, it’s definitely, that was the most memorable by far unique opportunities in a destination people wouldn’t expect to be able to do things like that in.

James Ferrara: Jacki, you’re so adventurous. Mike went golfing and I had a boozy lunch.

Mike Putman: Yeah.

Jacki Marks: Well, you know, everybody takes their vacations differently.

Mike Putman: Yeah. And I, I had a chance to do the same thing in Puerto Vallarta, and that is a outstanding, outstanding experience. So, um, yeah, very nice. Very nice.

James Ferrara: So, thanks for letting us in a little bit. Let’s turn to the company and let’s just give our travelers an understanding of what the company is and what brands are there.

Jacki Marks: You know, you said it, you said it in the beginning that I think a lot of people, there might be some confusion about what we do. So our parent company is called Apple Leisure Group and our parent company is owned by Hyatt Hotels, which is something that is relatively new to us. But we’ve been in business for over 50 years.

So when you book with us, you’re not booking actually Apple Leisure Group. You are booking one of our six vacation brands and four of those vacation brands that we you can buy through us. We own them. Two of our vacation brands we manage for other companies, which I’ll explain in a second.

But, so our core brands are Apple Vacations, which goes to the Apple Leisure Group name. We have another brand called Funjet Vacations. We have another brand called Travel Impressions, and those three brands sell everything from domestic to Europe to Mexico, Caribbean, to Hawaii, full service, product line.

Then we have a specialty brand called Blue Sky Tours, which only sells Hawaii and really has unique, um, aspects of that and, and focusing on that unique destination. So those are the four brands that we own. Then we also manage two brands for our airline partners. So I’m sure your audience has definitely probably heard of Southwest and Southwest Vacations.

Then United and United Vacations. So we have such great relationships with those airline partners that they’ve entrusted us to run their vacation division, which is our specialty. So we have a contract with them in which we’re providing vacation services under their airline umbrella. So six really amazing brands.

And those two are full service based on where the airline sells as well. So everything from your hotel, your air, your excursions, your transfers. All of our brands are all about packaging all the aspects of the trip into one, and for your audience that maybe hasn’t bought a package before.

The value of a package with us is by bundling all of the things that we put into the package, we get what is called like net rates because they’re not displaying the hotel rate publicly, like a land only product would be. So by getting reduced rates in a packaged environment, we’re able to offer the customers a better deal by putting it all into one vacation versus component shopping for their vacation.

James Ferrara: I tell customers and, and have for years that the packaging concept in travel can save them 30, 35% in value as opposed to them trying to do it a la carte, you know, sort of piece by piece. That’s my estimation, but it comes after many years of doing that.

Jacki Marks: You are spot on James.

Mike Putman: And also by having one, one provider at the end that’s taking care of all those details, that adds a level of convenience and confidence for the traveler as well.

James Ferrara: And part of what you do is charter air too, right? So that’s a special opportunity. Right. We tend to feel in the, on the retail side that if we can sell a package with chartered air, which is, you know, privately secured air by, by the company, either they own the planes or they have secured all the seats on the plate that, that’s where the best overall package rate come into play is when you can include charter air.

Jacki Marks: Absolutely. I think on the charter air side, one of the philosophies we’ve had as a company is providing the best nonstop service we can to get our customers to destinations. So, um, I think many people have realized the airline industry, it’s, tough. There’s been a lot of schedule changes, a lot of take downs, a lot of delays.

Um, and over the years we’ve been doing this for almost all the years we’ve been in business, we believed in controlling the product for the best experience for the customer. So to what you’ve said, we go out and we secure 400,000 seats across the nation. They’re from many of the major gateways, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, St. Louis, tons of gateways.

Um, and then by controlling the air experience, meaning we’ve purchased those seats, as you said perfectly, we either purchased them on an existing carrier like Frontier or Sun Country in Dallas, or we’ve gone and we’ve gotten an entire aircraft, like Swift Airlines and we’ve used Allegiant planes.

We’ll basically be renting their planes for a period of time in which then we are servicing the customer to the destination. Which really allows us to get them there early in the morning, come back later in the day, uh, nonstop flights in many of these gateways where either the nonstop flights are minimal or very high price.

And so to that point, we can bring ’em in at a better price because we’ve secured a, a flat rate across the board. So it is a very unique thing that has, has really differentiated our experience. And as you’ve heard me say, we’re all about putting it all into one where we can ensure the best optimal vacation experience for the customer.

Then the last thing I will say that you guys were touching on with the packaging it all together is then we also have an insurance product that covers all of everything you buy. So if you go out and you component shop these things, you, it would cost you a lot to protect your vacation in the case of a cancellation.

And our insurance product that you can buy now covers your tours, your car rental, your, your hotel, your air, everything that you buy. So if you cancel, all components of your vacation are protected.

James Ferrara: So for our listeners, these are things that you really wanna start a discussion with your professional travel advisor about. The idea of package vacation, the idea of charter air, and certainly the idea of travel insurance. But Jacki, let’s go beyond what you’ve described so far. Then there’s also the resort and resort management end of your business, right?

Can you talk about that?

Jacki Marks: So we are a very, uh, vertically integrated company, as you said. So one of the visions of the company, as you can keep hearing me say, is we really wanna ensure that the experience you have is something that we can put our name on. And, and when you go out and have to use other services, sometimes you don’t always get that.

So we have a ground handler that takes care of you in destination. So when you arrive in many of our core destinations, that ground handler’s getting you to your hotel, they’re taking you on excursions. As James mentioned, we also have a hotel management company, and that’s the Hyatt Inclusive Collection, which I referenced in the beginning.

Uh, we have 150 hotels that we are managing the hotel experience for. So your Secrets, your Dreams, your Zoëtry, your Breathless. And so we go and we work with hotel owners to run their hotels for them and give the level of service and experience and destination that we think is absolutely the best that a customer deserves when they’re spending that kind of money.

So, our division is Hyatt Inclusive Collection. And, uh, prior to that, if any of your listeners maybe have heard of it, it used to be called AM Resorts. Um, once we were acquired by Hyatt Hotels, it became Hyatt Inclusive Collection, but there’s 150 hotels from Mexico, Caribbean, and we’re growing rapidly in Europe now.

So many of these properties are moving into the European market. It is a little different. It’s, you know, one thing I always caution people when they think of a Secrets in Greece, um, it’s going to be very different than a Secrets in Mexico. So a European product is going to fit more of the European model, more so than just the Mexico Caribbean model. But the same attention to service, food, experience that, goes without saying that we have brand standards across all of our 150 resorts.

James Ferrara: So one of the trends that Mike and I have talked about a lot lately is this incredible growth in all-inclusive vacations amongst our listeners and amongst travelers in general. And I can say that at my company we, we saw a tripling of all-inclusive vacation sales through the pandemic up till today.

What is that about? What is it that resonates so much with travelers?

Jacki Marks: I think since the pandemic part of, you know, let’s be honest, part of the reason all inclusive grew was because there wasn’t a lot of other places people could go initially. So, you know, cruises were shut down. Disney was questionable due to the number of people there. Europe was shut down. So first we think, you know, the, the market for giving us a try because that really exploded our business from people who maybe hadn’t thought all inclusive was their thing.

And I think the reason why, um, some people didn’t think that all inclusive, as I say, was their thing for travel is there was a stigma in the past about all inclusive that has been gone for a while, but until you experience it, you don’t realize that, and I use this term, it’s not a pleasant term, but a lot of people used to think all inclusives were like herding cattle through buffets.

Low quality, mass market. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. And I think what happened after Covid is the more people experienced, the more people started sharing their experiences, especially in the world of social media, and they started realizing the dining was incredible, the menu choices, the shows at the resort became way more than they remembered.

I mean, there’s always that saying of, “oh, you’re gonna go see a Michael Jackson show everywhere you go.” It’s not. These memorable experiences and these shows they’re creating on the beach and these, you know, beach parties, the spas, the large water parks at these resorts, I say the cigar shops that are being built for those after dinner experiences, you name it.

These resorts continue to try to, what I would say, top each other. The next resort that opens is trying to get better than the one before, and, and every resort is remodeling to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. So the all-inclusive experience is so much more than the stigma that it had gotten years ago, and it really has become this immersive, “what do you want?” There’s a resort for you out there. Um, you just gotta know what you’re looking for.

Mike Putman: I can remember years ago, you know, let’s go back 20, 30 years ago when all inclusives were limited just to a few brands in certain regions and, you know, you, it, it was great for couples they would go, but there was typically a beach restaurant and a lobby restaurant, I’ll call it, and, a couple of bars and some canoes and maybe some sunfish and sailing vessels, and that was it. Uh, and today the breadth of different opportunities is amazing. I mean, there, there are sports bars and I mean, big sports bars. There are discos, there are, you know, games by the pool. There are, it’s just amazing at all how diverse these all-inclusives have gotten.

Really upscale. I, I think at, um, Secrets there were maybe six or seven specialty dining restaurants, if I remember correctly. So you could literally, if you’re there for a week, you could experience a different type of cuisine every single night and have the flexibility that’s all included. It’s all paid for and you can relax and not have to worry about spending any additional money.

James Ferrara: And kind of apropos for our podcast. There are more opportunities to get off property also or to have the local place, the local culture brought on property so that you’re really having an authentic travel experience if you do this right and you go to the right places. And I think that’s something that in the old style of all inclusive people carry that sort of misconception that you’re gonna be kind of shut in on the property and it, and it’ll be somehow generic.

Jacki Marks: Yeah. You know, I think you’re hitting on a great point. I think sometimes people think, “well, if I stay at an all inclusive, I’m gonna be less likely to go offsite because I’ve spent all this money. Why would I wanna leave now? Because, you know, I’m getting my food and my drinks here.” But the reality is the all-inclusive is such a value that when you get off property, you’re only going off property for maybe a half a day.

You’re going into town, you’re doing Chichén-Itzá, you are going over to Isla Mujeres. You know, you’re doing things that it doesn’t take away from the fact that you’ve got the value and there’s a great experience on property. And I always say if you know what kind of excursions you wanna do, you know, some destinations can be large like Riviera Maya, Tulum area.

So if you know what you wanna do, just stay a little bit closer to those excursions because that makes it better than when you go off property that your bus ride to get to that excursion can be 20 minutes, 30 minutes. But if you don’t stay in the right area, and, and Mike you brought up, you know, your, the wedding you were at.

So if you’re in Isla Mujeres, it’s two hours to get to the ruins. So you probably don’t wanna stay in Isla Mujeres if seeing the ruins is something that’s really important to you. But if you’re really interested in going and bartering and going over to Isla Mujeres, and snorkeling and going across the ocean to this really cool island, this beachy island where you get to snorkel on the way over, you get to go to some beach bars, you get to barter, and then you get to come back.

Isla Mujeres is the perfect location for that. So that’s why your advisor, they know what’s going to be the best place for you to stay. The more you tell them, the more they can pair up the right resort and right destination for you.

Mike Putman: You, you used the word value several times and a lot of times when we’re talking about travel or, or when you’re hearing from consumers, they say, “I want a cheap vacation.” And really no one wants a cheap vacation, right? People want a great vacation at a great value.

And speaking of that, of the destinations in the Caribbean that you serve, and this is just a question I think our listeners would probably be interested in. What are the better value locations to travel to in the Caribbean?

Jacki Marks: You know, Mexico will always be your best, value nine times out of 10 over what I would say your traditional Caribbean islands, with the exception of Punta Cana. Let me pause on that. So your Puerto Vallartas, your Cancuns, your Riviera Maya, Tulum areas that tends to bring the best value. And the reason being is there’s more flights into that destination than any other destination that we serve.

So the more flights that go in, the lower the price. The more hotels, the lower the price because there’s a more competitive nature to that destination that causes prices to stay low. It’s not because it’s cheap. It’s not because it’s not a good experience. It’s just when there’s a lot of supply, you know, typical supply and demand, then therefore you’re going to have lower pricing.

When you get into the destinations in the Caribbean islands, the reason why they tend to be more expensive, it’s because there isn’t a lot of airlift and there isn’t a lot of hotels, so they can charge more. It’s not that, I think the experience is significantly better. I think it’s different. But Punta Cana would be the one exception in the true side of the Caribbean Islands where there is a lot of hotels, there is a lot of air flights.

So you do get that more value, better deal like in the Mexico destinations. It’s not all Mexico destinations. Cabo, for example. It’s harder to get to Cabo, so that is a little bit more of a higher priced Mexico destination. So this is where your travel advisor will be able to tell you, you know, sometimes people think they’re getting a cheap price because it’s Cancun.

It is not cheap because it’s Cancun. Cancun to me, and Riviera Maya, all the areas of that are some of the best experiences that I’ve ever had, and I go back over and over again. It’s just again, supply demand drives the pricing.

James Ferrara: So Jacki, you travel a lot one presumes, right? How about sharing some intel for our listeners, what do you do to make the experience better for yourself when you travel? Is there something you do to speed your way through the airport or something you do at the hotel? Any advice for us?

Jacki Marks: Yeah, it’s, it’s a great question and I especially get to apply that when you travel with like friends and family who aren’t experienced travelers, you suddenly start putting your kind of your different hat on. As an experienced traveler, we kind of know how and what to do, but, um, the number one thing that I always do is a lot of these hotels have apps.

Um, so Hyatt Inclusive Collection has an app that you can download before you go to the destination. When you download that app, that gives you an idea of everything on property. What are the restaurant choices you’re gonna have? What are the days they’re open? What days are they closed? Do they have a dress code?

Because these are things you wanna prepare for before you get to the resort is understanding that. What kind of activities are they gonna have? Now, that will change from week to week, but it just gets the excitement going when you’re on their app and you’re watching, “oh, they, you know, they did beach volleyball today, or they did bingo by the pool today.” You start thinking about what is going to be what you wanna get out of that trip once you get onto that property.

So using a hotel’s app is definitely a, a must and even more so of like, do you wanna go to the spa? Cause you can pre-book some of that stuff. So the less you spend in destination trying to learn the resort and trying to understand all the benefits of the resort, and the more you do that ahead of time, the better your experience on property’s gonna be.

There’s hidden gems at these hotels. Like some people didn’t realize on this last trip, even though I’d given them the app and given ’em all the, you know, things for my daughter’s wedding, was like the amazing coffee that you could get every morning and the ice cream parlor at Dreams Playa Mujeres. By like day three, somebody said, I didn’t realize they had all these specialty coffees in the ice cream shop. And it’s like you don’t wanna miss those opportunities. So do your homework, get on the app, do your research. Think about what your family and your friends are gonna wanna do when you’re there, and start making a little bit of a plan.

Not that you wanna be super scheduled out, but just be knowledgeable when you arrive.

James Ferrara: That’s great advice. You have come through some big transitions at this very big company. It was, you know, when I first met you, it was Mark Travel and essentially a family office owned company, and then Apple and now Hyatt. And these have been very successful transformations for the company. But as an executive, can you share with us your learnings from these experiences and so much change, maybe differences in corporate cultures, you know, how did you navigate that and what do you come away from that with?

Jacki Marks: 27 years of being in travel, a lot has changed. I mean, when I first started, the internet wasn’t even a thing. Uh, we didn’t have, you know, sites where consumers were shopping. So I’ve seen a lot and I’ve seen a lot through the ownership of, of different, uh, people that I’ve worked for. So, as you said, we started out as family owned.

Uh, when we merged together with Mark Travel and Apple Leisure Group, we became a private equity held company. And then as of November of 2021, Hyatt, uh, came in, a large public hotel company came and bought us. And I will say that, you know, through each of those journeys, you learn, you adapt to the different leadership and the different expectations.

But by far, the thing that I love about Hyatt, and, and this is the best part of my journey so far, is when you have the, uh, support, uh, financially and strategically of a company like Hyatt. You can do a lot. There’s more risks you can take. When you’re smaller and you’re family owned, you know, you have to be careful, like making that one decision can be very costly, but not saying that we’re, you know, this crazy risk taking company, but it just gives you more bandwidth to explore different ideas and try different things and it allows you to stay ahead of where the world is going.

So I think, you know, the big buzz in the industry right now is what’s the future of Chat GPT. We’re trying to figure that out and we’re able to spend the time to understand how do we make travel advisors successful in that world? How does the consumer engage with the future of this AI technology?

Those are things when you’re part of a big company, you’re on the cutting edge of being able to understand and make sure that it’s best for your customers. So Hyatt has made a massive investment in leisure travel, massive investments, um, and in the all inclusive segments. So it’s not going away.

They’ve doubled down on it. Business travel is changing. So, we are in a very, very good place. And ultimately that’s all the business side. But I will tell you too, and you know us James, we’re a company that, that, I always say we think big, but we act small. And being part of Hyatt, we’re a big organization and we’re growing and we’re entrepreneurial and we do a lot of, you know, innovation, but at the heart of it, our CEO Mark Hoplamazian is a humble and, and kind man, and that transcends all the way through the organization.

So the think big act small mentality is really about, we’re gonna keep growing, but we’ll never lose that family oriented nature of who we were. Relationships matter, kindness matters. And so when you can get up every day and fulfill customer’s vacation dreams and feel cared for in the organization, and being able to care for our advisors and our relationships, I don’t know.

I, at this point, I don’t see myself ever retiring.

James Ferrara: Well, your success and the company’s success are, um, very well understood. That was very well said, and, uh, we wish you the best. Of course. Very excited to see what’s coming next. And Mike and I just want to thank you for spending the time with our listeners.

Mike Putman: Yes, Jacki, thanks so much. It’s been, you know, it’s, even though it’s a brand that consumers may not know, I’m sure they, many of them, many, many have taken trips, you know, utilizing your services or stayed at the hotels that you guys have managed. So, it’s great to get the backbone of that and we really appreciate you being so gracious with your time sharing so much with us.

And, uh, we really enjoyed the partnership as well.

Jacki Marks: Thank you. It’s, very mutual and, um, I have greatly appreciated the, the vision and the things that you guys have done. And this podcast alone is, is another, uh, chapter in, in your guys’ story, and I love it. And thank you for letting me be part of it.

Mike Putman: Thanks so much Jacki.

James Ferrara: Great. Thank you Jacki.

Mike Putman: We’re happy to have our very special guest. She’s really not a guest anymore. I mean, she’s on every week, so, um, but…

James Ferrara: Part of the no tourist allowed family.

Jessica Deverson: I feel honored.

Mike Putman: Co contributor, Jessica Deverson, who scans the globe for travel deals for our listeners. So Jessica, what do you have for us this weekend? This week, rather.

Jessica Deverson: So this week I actually have a handful of resort offers and usually I try to mix it up and keep it resort and cruise. But there are tons of offers out there right now for, um, hotels and resorts and all inclusive. And that’s a really big trend in travel right now, and there’s great deals, whether you wanna travel last minute, like in the next couple months, if you wanna travel in 2023, or if you’re booking for 2024.

So, I brought you a handful of, uh, like I said, resort hotel, all-inclusive offers.

James Ferrara: Oh, great. That’s perfect for our podcast so far. We just had on Jacki Marks from Apple Leisure Group and talked all inclusives and talked resorts, and talked all of these great destination, so hit us.

Jessica Deverson: Yeah, perfect timing. So first up, I have Hyatt Zilara Cancun. So this is an all-inclusive resort in Cancun and I, you might be groaning and saying, “oh, I’ve been to Cancun, I’ve done Cancun.” But this is a really, um, kind of like ultimate Cancun getaway at a Mayan inspired adult only retreat. So, you might be thinking, I’ve been there, done that, but I don’t know if you’ve been there and done this.

So this is on the pristine beaches, the crystal waters of you know, Cancun Zona Hotelera, I know know I have a terrible accent, so I know that. But the resort, it captures, it tries to capture the natural splendor of the destination. And so, uh, not, you know, just basic hotel kind of decor and amenities. Just a really lovely like, pinnacle of luxury is what they call it.

And it’s all inclusive, like I said. So it’s just a really elevated, all inclusive adult kind of getaway. And right now their offer is save up to 20% on any bookings. But if you stay five nights, you’ll get another night free. So obviously the longer you stay, the more savings you’ll get. Um, and these are really great deals.

Uh, you can book, uh, now through the end of August for travel now through the end of October. So, like I said, really close in, but if you’re looking off of that last minute getaway, that last summer, kind of like hurrah, this is a really great offer for you.

Mike Putman: That’s a heck of a deal.

Jessica Deverson: It is. And uh, you were just mentioned Jacki Marks and, um, ALG. Well, I have an offer for you from Funjet, and it features the Inclusive collection, which is part of the Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.

And so they have their special offer that called “Just Wanna Have Sun,” which is a great campaign name for the summer and for resorts. And it’s all the newest resorts of 2023. So this is bookable now, and it’s for stays through the end of the year, but it’s in their, their five brand new resorts. So if you’re looking to soak up the sun in Mexico, the Caribbean, um, you know, the inclusive collection, which like I said, is part of the Hyatt hotels.

They’re known for their great properties and the best destinations and, um, you know, unlimited luxury, endless privileges. And so in these new hotels, like I said, are, um, Impressions by Secrets, Zoëtry Wellness and Spa and Resort, and Secrets Spa and Resorts, so formally, uh, AM resorts but really great offers right now on brand new hotels.

So savings up to 40%, exclusive perks, $200 in resort credits, all at brand new beautiful hotels when you travel through the end of 2023.

James Ferrara: Did Jacki put you up to this?

Jessica Deverson: I know, right? Very, very, uh, good coincidence. Huh?

James Ferrara: It’s, it’s funny that Jessica really didn’t know that Jacki would be here talking about these Hyatt properties and the new Hyatt all inclusive collection and all inclusive resorts and stuff. So it just goes to show you what we were saying with Jacki was true. There is incredible value in these travel experiences, so thanks.

Thanks for being so on top of it.

Jessica Deverson: Absolutely. And, um, like I said, brand new resorts and you get all of these savings. So be the first in there, the first to see it, the first to experience it. But all at an incredible value with coupons and perks and discounts. So really great offer there. And then last but not least, I swear I didn’t do this on purpose, but it’s Funjet.

They have Marriott International Hotels. So this is for people who are looking to save on 2024 travel. And so this applies to the Marriott International Hotel brand. But specifically, uh, we wanna highlight Hawaii. And, um, with the most oceanfront hotels in Hawaii, Marriott International offers a huge variety, a great change of scenery, um, you know, newly transformed resorts with open air spaces, stunning infinity pools.

Large sandy beaches. Um, so really, really a new way to experience Hawaii. They hope you travel mindfully and, you know, really connect with culture and, and the landscape and the experience. And so, so when you’re ready to travel, that offer is available from now through the end of the year to book, but the traveling window is all of 2024.

So for those of you who are looking to plan ahead and get incredible value and discounts and so that’s not just one rate across the board. Um, it’s all different savings on all different Marriott International stays in 2024.

Mike Putman: Well, that’s some great deals, Jessica, uh, really appreciate you bringing those on, and I’m sure, uh, Jacki will appreciate the plug there. Her company has such a wide breadth of product. It’s hard not to have a special section on your podcast and not mention at least one of their offers.

So, not surprising.

Jessica Deverson: Yep. And a spoiler alert for next week. I’ll bring you a bunch of cruise offers. So I hope your guest is a cruise guest.

James Ferrara: We’ll try to work that out.

Mike Putman: Yeah.

Jessica Deverson: All right.

James Ferrara: Thank you so much Jessica. Thanks for being with us.

Jessica Deverson: Bye guys. Have a great day.

Mike Putman: Thanks.

James Ferrara: So Mike, you know, last time we talked a little, several times, you’ve talked a little bit about skip lagging, right? The practice of booking a flight that flies through somewhere that you actually want to go. But you book the flight to the further destination and you get off at the end of that segment where you wanna be.

And because of the way fares are constructed and, uh, competition and promotions and so on, you could potentially save a lot of money. It’s a kind of hack. And you and I have debated this a couple of times, but I just wanna let you know that this morning I was interviewed by the Huffington Post on this because in the last couple of weeks there have been some pretty harsh examples of enforcement by the airlines against this.

They consider this rule breaking and kind of hacking their system. So I thought it was kind of a coincidence that, um, they’ve reached out and, and wanted some quotes about it. I basically told them that you do it and I sent them in your direction.

Mike Putman: Oh, thanks. Thanks. I, all I’m doing is I am acknowledging that this is a strategy that some people, uh, some people deploy. So, um, I saw there was a, you know, a, a a, a high school kid, uh, last month flying from somewhere up north through Charlotte. The guy at the, uh, the gate agent, the American gate agent, looked at his driver’s license – and this was a teenager – and said, I see you live in Charlotte, but your ticket says you’re going from wherever New York to Charlotte, Charlotte to Wichita.

And he said, I don’t think you’re doing that. I’m canceling your flight. So yeah, it’s that whole debate. I mean, and I was at a, at a farmer’s market this weekend and, and there was a little girl that had this really cute section at the Travelers’ Rest Farmer’s Market and they’ve got this entrepreneur, uh, little section where young people can come and sell their wares.

And this little girl had a sign and the sign said, uh, “cookies a dollar 50 a piece or you can get a dozen for $12.” Right. So I was just thinking the application of that same logic is if you worked at American Airlines, you would say, uh, a consumer has if they buy a dozen, they have to eat every one of those, because if they don’t, they’re breaking their rules.

James Ferrara: It’s, uh, it’s tricky. That’s a big discount for a dozen cookies actually. I think that kid needs a little talking to. Went a little too far.

And then, you know, another thing about the airlines, I, I mentioned to you, I was gonna start ranting again on our podcast like “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore,” because I went to book a flight from New York to Orlando, two of the most competitive markets in the system, right?

Because I can fly from any of three airports in New York with thousands of flights, and Orlando is a huge airport with lots of inventory in and out, and I’m booking up over 30 days in advance, and the coach ticket from New York to Orlando came out at $1,100. I just couldn’t believe it.

And I complained to Mike and Mike said, “oh, it’s you, James. You don’t wanna fly at four o’clock in the morning, or you don’t, you know, you’ve got some parameters there.” And I denied it. But Mike did come back, being the good travel professional he is, and said, “look, I found a much cheaper flight on this discount airline, this kind of discount, discount airline.”

And I do draw the line at that because I would like a seat. I would like to bring a bag. I would like to know that the plane is going to show up. So I don’t travel that way because I don’t trust those kinds of airlines. But it is true that if you have someone knowledgeable advising you and they put the work in and you have a fair degree of flexibility, you can usually do something about high airfares.

Don’t you agree?

Mike Putman: Absolutely, absolutely. You, do have to be a little flexible, and especially if you require a non-stop flight. So I happen to live in kind of a B tier city, and so we, our non-stop flight choices are somewhat limited. So I’m somewhat used to having to change planes, but if you, if you want nonstop flights, uh, and you’re not willing to go on a low cost carrier, there’s a possibility you may have to pay the piper.

That really is a very high, all those things being said, $1,100. Newark to Orlando. Extremely high, in my opinion uh, from doing this for years and years, but yeah.

James Ferrara: So a good strategy here that, that maybe some of our listeners wouldn’t think of is I’m actually gonna book a fully refundable fair. Which is about $1,200 and change, and then sit on it for a while because airfares have been dropping through the last month, and it’s possible between now and closer to my travel dates, the airfares will get better and then I can drop the refundable and grab a better airfare.

So look, there are many of those types of strategies and you know, without sounding like a commercial for any particular company I’d like to, you know, urge our listeners to work with a professional travel advisor who can do these sorts of things for you and really make a difference.

Mike Putman: Absolutely. It’s amazing how much value you can pick up from a, from a travel agent, travel advisor as you call ’em, um, today because they’ve got lots of information and, and have a lot of experience in this area. And typically it doesn’t cost you a penny more. So certainly I think we all agree. Use your travel agent.

So, James, what, uh, other than going on down to Orlando, what’s your next trip?

James Ferrara: Let’s see. After Orlando, my next trip is out west to Santa Fe for an event that we’re having, the company is having. And, I love Santa Fe. I haven’t been there in years. The history, the desert southwest, the environment there, the history of Native American cultures in that area, the food is great.

So I’m really looking forward to that. Staying at a legendary hilton Resort just outside of town that also has a sort of long storied history and has a real Santa Fe feel to it. And that’s where I’m going. What about you?

Mike Putman: I am staying put for a while. Um, I don’t have any immediate plans until kind of October timeframe where I get the fall travel started back up. But, um, being gone for 20 days, um, has put me in a family deficit. So I’m staying home for a while and enjoying, uh, some of this hot weather.

James Ferrara: And then you and I are going to, um, Málaga in Spain later in the year.

Mike Putman: Yep. Later on. Yep. So I’ve got India, London, Málaga, Cancun, all before the end of the year, and I’m sure there’ll be several other trips.

James Ferrara: There’s some cruises in there too. So, we also took a look at, uh, some other stories recently in the news, particularly around AI. We haven’t talked about that much on the pod yet, but, uh, Mike and I sat through a big presentation earlier today, and gosh, it seems every other article in the travel industry press is about AI and Chat-GPT.

So we’re looking at, and even Jacki, uh, mentioned it a little bit, we’re looking at how these new technologies can help travelers like our listeners here. And help travel advisors and help us on the business side of things, smooth operations and processes. Um, and it’s all, you know, very exciting time.

Mike Putman: It is, and the, and you know, and the scope is wide open. You know, we’ve been deploying AI and machine learning for quite some time to help us with some of our way that we filter hotels and pull back information. So it’s not all totally new, but the thing that that’s really been different is this uh, natural language processing.

So, before when you were trying to utilize machine learning and AI, you typically had to code it to a way that was very specific for, you know, developers. So the developers could, pull this information out of these systems. But what they’ve layered on with the Chat-GPT is the natural languaging.

So instead of typing in, you know, uh, C:\ blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and coming up with the, with with these, you know, inputs to get the information out. Now you can say things like, “show me all the hotels in Miami Beach that have spas and allow cigar smoking,” things like that. And then through the systems they can actually bring back information like that.

So it’s… The data has not so much changed. It’s what’s really changed is, um, the ability to use natural languaging to pull information out of these systems, which is the really, it’s really exciting. And I think we’re, you know, we’re at the beginning of this. We’re scratching the surface, everybody’s buzzing about it.

There’ll be things, it’ll do things, it won’t do so well. But there’s a lot of opportunity in the future for sure.

James Ferrara: Exciting times for a lot of reasons. So, Mike I think we, uh, will give our listeners a break. Huh?

Mike Putman: We’re finishing on time for once. So that feels good. But, uh, really want to thank again, Jacki Marks our, uh, our guest, as well as Jessica Deverson, our deals guru, and, uh, really enjoyed speaking with you guys. Please share, share the love, let people know about our pod if you’re enjoying it. And you can also go to if you wanna provide us any feedback or ask any questions or have us answer anything on air, we’ll be glad to do so.

So we really do appreciate your listenership and I hope you’ll continue.

James Ferrara: Yeah, very grateful to you all for being here with us and, uh, looking forward to the next couple of weeks.

Mike Putman: Bye-bye for now.

Image via Apple Leisure Group.

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