Pam Hoffee Takes Avalon Waterways' Helm. What's Next for Agents?

Avalon
Panorama Suites on Avalon Waterways have a river-facing bed, so guests can soak in the best views while having breakfast.

A new captain has taken the helm at Avalon WaterwaysPam Hoffee has been promoted to managing director of Avalon Waterways and chief operating officer (COO) of the Globus family of brands.

The move comes as Terri Burke, former managing director, is retiring for personal reasons.

A 15-year Globus veteran, Hoffee most recently served as vice president of product and operations for the Globus family of brands, including overseeing Southeast Asia operations for Avalon Waterways. 

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During the past year, she also enlarged her operational footprint on Avalon, as she helped guide the river line’s worldwide operations including its sizable European river operations.

What to Expect?

Agents know that new leaders often make sizable changes. So, what can they expect at Avalon?

“I do not see it as a revolution,” emphasizes Hoffee, who has been an integral part of the core team that created the existing product. “It’s definitely an evolution. There is no reason to change something that is really good.”

But while “it’s not likely that we’ll see huge changes,” Hoffee teases with this: “With the 2019 launch, you’re going to see some pretty new things from Avalon that we’re excited about. They’re evolutionary, but they’re pretty cool…There are some new technology things, some new product elements onboard and new itineraries.”

Hoffee says it’s too soon to go into detail, but Travel Agent will keep agents updated on any future announcements.

 
 

Working With the Trade  

From the leadership side, “Pam Hoffee [shown above] is the perfect person to lead Avalon Waterways into the future,” believes Scott Nisbet, Globus’ president and CEO. “She was a valued member of the core team that launched Avalon Waterways in 2004 and since then, she has helped our award-winning cruise line raise the bar on this incredible travel style.”

Nisbet says Hoffee has both a clear vision for what Avalon needs to continue to exceed its guest expectations and also the operational expertise to implement Globus’ ideas and ideals: “Avalon Waterways, our team and our travel agent partners, are in good hands with Pam.”

Now that she’s also responsible for sales and marketing, she says that meeting travel agents who sell the product “is actually one of the things I’m most excited for in this job.” She also looks forward to developing deeper relationships with the agency community, which she says is such an important part of Avalon's business.

“Agents are really the reason why our brands are all so successful, and in particular, why the Avalon brand is so successful,” Hoffee stresses.

Getting out to meet more retailers is now high on her “to do” list, she says, adding that she and Paula Hayes, Globus’ vice president of sales, are now talking about how best to accomplish that.  She does plan to attend Cruise360 in Fort Lauderdale this April. 

“I am thrilled to use my operational experience and passion for Avalon Waterways to broaden the journeys we provide travelers while continuing to support travel agents by delivering their clients an unforgettable vacation,” Hoffee says, emphasizing that she comes from the cruise industry, so she knows the industry.

While her background is strongly in operations, though, Hoffee wants agents to know that doesn’t mean she thinks only like an operations person, which some may believe is a more rigid approach.  

“I do recognize that [in the sales/marketing arena] there is a need to be flexible and to make things work,” says Hoffee. “I’m creative on that aspect.” 

Travel Agent asked her about the sizable scope of her job and how she could juggle so much – given that she’s now leading Avalon Waterways as well as handling operations for the entire Globus family of brands.

“I luckily love what I do, so working hard and putting in the time is not an issue,” she notes. “How I’m juggling it is really to put a lot of reliance on a very strong team.”

She cites the positive way Globus treats associates and team members, and “people do tend to stay so the average tenure of people who report directly to me is about 15 years…It’s really great to have that team behind me and rooting for me as well.”

From Hoffee’s perspective, “it’s an extremely exciting time to step up to the wheel and navigate the future of Avalon Waterways with our team of experts across the globe.” She cites the introduction of new onboard experiences, new land discoveries for river cruisers, the line’s new ships and more.

Later this year, Avalon Waterways plans 16 Christmastime cruises in Europe, just one of its itinerary highlights. 

 

Marketplace Positioning

Will Avalon Waterways move – as many lines have done – into a more luxury positioning in the marketplace? “Most river lines are calling themselves luxury, which is something we have to contend with,” Hoffee says, adding that while they don’t use the moniker of luxury readily, for many clients, the experience is every bit a luxury one.

“It’s a matter of style,” she emphasizes. “Avalon doesn’t have butlers and we never will have. It’s not our style.” She says the Avalon guests don’t want butlers and that’s why the line doesn’t have them. Instead, Hoffee says Avalon offers a different kind of atmosphere.

“We’re making the guests feel at home, and every decision we make it’s because it’s what our guests want,” she said. “We look at what they like and what they don’t want. It’s about feeling at home, smiles and genuine service over white gloves. It’s friendly not formal.”

As for balconies, Avalon has a different approach to that too. It foregoes the traditional exterior balconies or French balconies for its signature Panorama Suite “interior balcony” concept – in which a massive wall of sliding glass doors pushes aside to open up the interior space to fresh air, great views and comfortable seating from which to watch those views.

Other product differentiators from her perspective include Avalon Fresh, a new locally sourced culinary concept, and Active Discovery. Hoffee says many lines carry bicycles, but Avalon’s Active Discovery itineraries are “along shorter stretches of river to stay longer in port and do more.” 

As the daughter of a father who served in the U.S. Air Force, Hoffee developed the “travel bug” early in life -- as her father talked about exotic locales across the globe. Her own international career began during a summer internship onboard a World Explorer Cruises ship in Alaska, followed by an eight-year stint designing and leading land tours as manager of that line’s shore excursion department.  

She also sailed twice around the world with Semester at Sea and managed that group’s field office, before transferring to Semester at Sea’s corporate offices in San Francisco as director of operations. In that post, she designed several new itineraries for the cruise line including a Panama Canal program.

In September 2003, a desire to return to her native Colorado brought Hoffee to Globus, at which she initially managed the product development department responsible for tour planning and brochure production for North America, Central and South America, the South Pacific and Asia.

Subsequently, she was promoted to her most recent position as Globus’ vice president of product and operations. Avalon continues to expand in Europe and look for exotic opportunities elsewhere, such as a South American itinerary to the Peruvian Amazon that appeals to "been there, done that" repeat guests.  

Now she leads the line, and says: “I’m pretty confident and I have the knowledge to lead us into the future.”

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