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Profile of a Leader: Top Travel Agent Wins Advocacy AwardSeptember 20, 2010 By: George Dooley
Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg, co-owner and co-president of Valerie Wilson Travel (VWT) was honored with the Barbara O’Hara Advocacy Award from the Interactive Travel Services Association (ITSA). The award is presented each year by ITSA to the ASTA member who has made the most significant contribution in advocating for the interests of the travel agency community before federal, state and/or local governmental authorities.
“This year, Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg has joined ASTA’s Corporate Advisory Council—and become one of ASTA’s most effective and engaged volunteer advocates. Jennifer is, in many ways, a model ASTA member” Bruce Charendoff, ITSA’s immediate past president said. “Her business is squarely in the family-owned, brick-and-mortar travel agency tradition, yet she recognizes the promise of new technology and encourages its adoption and use among her employees and her industry peers.
“On the advocacy front, Jennifer never hesitates to get involved in sharing and amplifying ASTA’s advocacy messages, and always asks: ‘What else can I do?’" Charendoff continued. "She has shown that she is willing to invest time and energy in helping to shape the direction of this industry. From the municipal level to the highest reaches of the federal government, Jennifer is willing to stand up and tell the agents’ side of the story. Among other things, the strides the industry is making today in securing transparency in ancillary fee data started in meetings with the Secretary of Transportation in which Jennifer played a key and compelling advocacy role.”
In February 1991, Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg joined Valerie Wilson Travel, Inc., a family-owned business that ranks among the top U.S. agencies and is one of the largest women-owned and family-managed travel consulting businesses in the United States. She is responsible for the company’s overall strategy and manages Valerie Wilson Travel’s business development, sales, operational, administrative and technology functions. She continues to grow all business sectors, with the expansion of fulfillment and strategic marketing alliances.
In addition to her work with Valerie Wilson Travel, she serves on the travel advisory boards of Abercrombie & Kent, Sofitel Luxury Hotels, Delta/Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines, and is Virtuoso's Technology Committee Chairman, as well as a member of Virtuoso's Next Generation Steering Committee.
Wilson-Buttigieg also serves on ASTA’s Corporate Advisory Council (CAC), where she recently shared with her fellow CAC members her agency’s innovative programs to recruit and retain travel agents from Generation Y. She is an active supporter of the Society’s grassroots political efforts and ASTAPAC, ASTA reports.
In 2010, she worked on behalf of New York travel agents, contacting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to oppose a new city tax on travel agencies and writing to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand to request a Congressional hearing to examine proposed changes to airline merchant fee practices.
On a national level, she personally briefed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on changes in commission agreements with foreign carriers and made a powerful case for increased disclosure of ancillary fees through the GDS.
She has diverse interests, from being an avid golfer to being a member of the Women's Forum and the International Women's Forum. Her many philanthropic commitments include her community involvement, The Reformed Church of Bronxville, an advisory board membership of The Collette Foundation, and she serves on the Board of Directors of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York.
In October 2009, she co-chaired along with her sister and co-president of VWT, Kimberly Wilson Wetty, the Lawrence Hospital Gala Auction Committee, which raised more than $3.2 million to celebrate the hospital's 100th anniversary.
She graduated from Haverford College with a B.A. in history and a minor in political science and completed her executive MBA in the Owner/President Management Program at Harvard Business School in 2004. In addition, she is the class chairperson of her Harvard Business School (Owner/President/ Management) Program. She resides in Bronxville, New York with her husband and son.
ITSA’s Board of Directors selects the winner from a pool of candidates nominated by ASTA’s Government Affairs department. ITSA is the trade association for online travel companies and global distribution systems and has had a productive 12-year partnership with ASTA. Among its members or their subsidiaries are: Amadeus, CheapTickets, Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire.com, Orbitz, Priceline.com, Sabre Holdings, Travelocity, Travelport and Vegas.com.