Coffee Time with Industry Vets: Javier Coll

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Javier Coll and daughter.
Javier Coll and daughter.

Think you know Javier Coll, think again….

There’s more to Javier Coll, executive v.p. and chief strategy officer for Apple Leisure Group, than meets the eye, so we decided to ask him those comical, personal and telling questions to reveal the man behind the suit.

Sure, he’s best known for his role at Apple Leisure Group, the only vertically integrated hospitality company in the United States. It was on Coll’s watch that Travel Impressions and CheapCaribbean joined ALG, securing ALG’s standing as the world’s #1 provider of North American leisure travelers to Mexico and the Caribbean. In 2015, AMResorts added 17 hotels in the Caribbean and Central America in less than 12 months, so now it operates more than 50 resorts in 23 Caribbean, Mexican, and Central American destinations. But who’s the man behind all these achievements? We had fun finding out in this Coffee Time With Industry Vets Q&A.

Where did you go on your first trip and how old were you?
My earliest travel experiences were sports-related. As a handball and soccer player, I attended many tournaments throughout Spain. I also skied. The first time I traveled internationally was on a family vacation to France and Italy when I was seven or eight years old.

What is your most vivid travel memory?
There are so many from which to choose, but the ones that stand out the most involve sailing. During summers, my friends and I used to sail across the Mediterranean Sea in rented boats. There’s something special about sailing at night. Everyone is asleep, so it’s just you, the boat, and the stars. It’s a wonderful experience (unless, like us, you end up crashing into a rock).

What was the “Aha” moment that led you into the travel industry?
It was during the summer between receiving my degree in economics from the University of Barcelona and starting graduate school. I wanted a summer job, and my friend’s dad offered me a position at his resort complex. I knew nothing about hotels or travel, but I welcomed the opportunity. When the summer ended and I started my master’s degree, I could think of nothing else but returning to the hotel business.

Where did you go on your honeymoon?
Nowhere. I had just started a new job in hospitality and I thought it was too soon to take any time off. In fact, the day we got married, I was back in the office working that afternoon. I am where I am today because of that work ethic. In a few years my wife, Carolina, and I will have our 20th wedding anniversary. Perhaps a good way to celebrate will be to finally have that honeymoon.

What was your favorite trip you took last year and why?
Last year, my family and I spent Christmas and New Year’s in Colombia. My wife’s siblings joined us, so the vacation was a big family bonding trip.

Our daily routine back home can make us forget how good life can be. This trip was a perfect reminder of what living is really all about. Colombia is incredible! The people, food, and country are all amazing. When you are there, it feels like you are learning to live again.

Where would you like to go that you have yet to visit?
There are so many destinations I want to visit. If I had to choose one, it would be the Maldives. I am a beach addict, and from the photographs, the Maldives scenery seems simply spectacular, like someplace where I could happily get lost for a couple of weeks.

Do you always buy a souvenir the first time you visit a destination?
I used to, but not anymore. Now I just take photos as mementos.

You can tell us – do you collect magnets from the destinations you’ve visited?
Absolutely not. Over time one little magnet can turn into dozens upon dozens, and that reminds me too much of my mother’s Lladro porcelain collection. Like those figurines, which she had in every size, shape and form all over the house, I can imagine my refrigerator covered in magnets until one can no longer find the door handle.

What do you do to pass the time on the plane ride to your destination?
I read a book or watch a movie. I don’t like to work on planes, although sometimes I have to.

Who is your favorite travel companion?
My family. I get so much joy from experiencing new places with them. It’s sad when I travel for work and can’t share these fantastic destinations and enjoy fabulous food with them.

If there were one hotel room in the world you could call home the rest of your life, which would it be?
The Presidential Suite at Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa.

If you were a destination, which would it be and why?
Having grown up in the Balearic Islands, it would have to be an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Maybe Menorca. Compared to its larger neighbors, Majorca and Ibiza, Menorca moves to a more relaxed beat. Mao, its capital, is delightfully low-key, and the white sand bays that stud its 134-miles coastline are among the loveliest in the Mediterranean.

What is the best food you’ve had on a trip? The strangest?
That’s a tough one. For best food, it’s a tie between grilled octopus in Cabo and pasta on the beach in Formentera, Spain.

As for the strangest, I once ate spiders and ants at a food festival in Costa Rica. It’s an acquired taste, which I admittedly have not acquired.

What can’t you travel without?
I’ve mastered the art of packing light, so I don’t travel with much. It would be difficult, though, to leave behind my camera.

Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while traveling?
Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. We shook hands, and I remember thinking, “I am not washing my hand for a month.” This summer, I’m traveling with my family to Italy and Spain, and I hope we’ll have the chance to see Pope Francis.

Tropical beach or snowy mountain?
Tropical beach, definitely.

City or countryside?