Marilyn Conroy and David Morris have complemented each other's talents for more than 25 years
Famous partnerships throughout history evoke such storied names as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sears and Roebuck or Currier and Ives. But in the travel industry, and specifically in cruising, agents point to the dynamic duo of David Morris and Marilyn Conroy, who have worked side by side as friends and business colleagues for more than a quarter century, first at Cunard Line, then at Crystal Cruises and now at Silversea Cruises.
For their superior leadership record and service to the travel agency community, Morris, Silversea’s executive vice president, worldwide sales and marketing, and Conroy, the line’s senior vice president, sales and marketing for the Americas, will jointly receive this year’s Leaders in Luxury award in the luxury cruise category, as selected by the editors of Travel Agent and Luxury Travel Advisor.
“Marilyn and I are especially proud that this award acknowledged both of us for our 25-year-plus association,” says Morris. “We’ve been partners at Cunard, Crystal and Silversea and we have a strong bond.” He acknowledges that, like all good partners, one’s weakness is the other’s strength. He says Conroy is the organizational and business whiz, while his forte is creative marketing. Marry those qualities in business, he comments, and the final result is highly productive for any company.
Conroy stresses that she and Morris are “like-minded,” but while they often agree, they also disagree sometimes. “But we always make each other think,” she stresses. “David and I also have the same values, both personally and professionally.”
Morris adds, “We’ve had a really wonderful track record of coming into companies, building a team, [forging] a base of people that probably weren’t there before and then having a clear track record of making those companies successful. And we continue to have that even in challenging times.”
Morris began his career in the cruise industry as a regional sales manager for Holland America, followed by a stint as vice president, sales, for Royal Cruise Line and then as president of Heritage Cruises. He and Conroy both joined Cunard Line in 1985. Morris was sales vice president for groups and charters; he and Conroy together ramped up Cunard’s first group and charter sales team aimed at developing major leisure, fund-raising and corporate accounts. Morris rose through the ranks to become Cunard’s senior vice president of sales in 1990.
Morris then moved to Crystal Cruises, becoming senior vice president of sales in 1995, the same year that Conroy became Crystal’s vice president of sales. Since joining Silversea’s executive team in late 2003, Morris—with Conroy’s help upon her arrival at the luxury line in early 2004—has been instrumental in developing an expanded sales force and boosting sales throughout the Americas. Both were promoted in early 2007 to their present posts.
Today, Morris is responsible for Silversea’s global sales and marketing operations, while Conroy manages all marketing and sales activities for North and South America. What’s new this year? “We’re now ‘marrying the agents with the consumer,’” says Morris. “To promote in a tough economy, you do all the things you normally do, including advertising, direct mail and so on, but you really have to be in the face of the consumer. When we do get in front of the consumer with the partnership of agents, there is a confidence level that develops because of that.”
Conroy notes that “you cannot take the marketplace or the agency community for granted,” and insists that she and Morris will keep adapting to market conditions. “We’re both very high-energy people,” she stresses, “and we’re constantly reinventing ourselves.”