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Rick Sasso and Michelle Morgan Named to CLIA Hall of FameApril 4, 2011 By: George Dooley Travel Agent
Michelle Morgan, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network, Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA and the U.S. Coast Guard will be inducted into the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Cruise Industry Hall of Fame on April 16 at a gala evening event during CLIA’s cruise3sixty conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Now in its seventh year, the Cruise Industry Hall of Fame honors those individuals, past and present, whose efforts and accomplishments represent a significant contribution to and positive impact on the development and growth of cruise vacations. They are selected based on nominations from CLIA's membership, review by a nominating committee made up of Travel Agency Advisory Board (TAAB) and cruise line members, and approval by CLIA's Executive Committee.
This year inductees were chosen in three categories: cruise retailer, cruise line executive, and an "At Large" category that may be any individual, such as an additional retailer or cruise line executive, a politician, publisher, or shipbuilder, whose accomplishments warrant nomination.
As a travel marketing executive for more than 30 years, Morgan will celebrate 20 years with Signature Travel Network this year, having joined the organization in 1991 when it had 30 locations in Southern California. Established in the early 1950’s, Signature is the oldest retail travel consortium in the U.S. Today, as a member-owned co-operative of the travel industry's leading retail travel agencies, it brings together more than 7,000 travel specialists, across 365 retail locations in the U.S. and Canada, generating over $4.5 billion in sales. Collectively, Signature also provides content for more than 1,200 consumer websites.
As president and CEO, Morgan maintains the overall responsibility for the co-operative and has been instrumental in framing the organization's strategic direction. Morgan has been instrumental in charting the company’s course in the areas of partnership development, marketing, technology and member services programs, and especially takes pride in the fact that her company has the lowest attrition rate of any network.
Morgan has received several accolades within the industry including Luxury Travel Advisor’s Retail Travel Partner of the Year and was named one of Forbes 25 Most Influential Women in Travel.
Prior to joining Signature, Morgan was a marketing executive for Carlson Travel Network for 13 years and was involved with the executive team that launched Ask Mr. Foster’s retail franchise program in 1984.
As one of the most popular and well-respected figures in the cruise industry for almost 40 years, Rick Sasso was named president and chief executive officer of MSC Cruises USA Inc., in April 2004, charged with establishing a strong position for MSC Cruises in the North American market as the line dramatically increased its fleet to make MSC Cruises the fastest growing cruise line.
Prior to joining MSC, Sasso held key positions at Costa Cruises and Chandris Cruises, and was part of the senior management team that launched Celebrity Cruises in 1990. He served as president of that line from 1995 to 2001 and was instrumental in establishing it as a top premium cruise line.
In 1999, the National Association of Cruise Only Agencies (NACOA) honored Sasso as “Cruise Industry Executive of the Year” and a leading travel industry trade magazine named him its “Cruise Industry Executive of the Year.” In 1999-2000 he also served as chairman of both the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and, in January 2009 was named chairman of CLIA’s Marketing Committee, a position he held for the customary two-year term.
CLIA said the U.S. Coast is an invaluable partner with the cruise industry in the important areas of safety and security as the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security, charged with safeguarding the nation's maritime interests in the heartland, in the ports, at sea, and around the globe. Accepting the 2011 Hall of Fame Award on behalf of the Coast Guard will be Rear Admiral James Watson, Deputy Commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area.
The 2011 gala CLIA Hall of Fame Dinner is a centerpiece of cruise3sixty, following three days of general sessions, seminars and workshops, ship inspections, a trade show and other social events.