Today the travel industry remembers John Bloodworth, who passed away October 13, 2011, after a battle with cancer. He will be remembered not only for his long and successful career in travel, but for the trust and loyalty he inspired in the people around him.
Born in a small town outside Dallas, Bloodworth rose from a baggage handler at Delta Air Lines to become CEO of one of the world’s largest travel companies.
Bloodworth started at Delta in 1969, and by 1981 he had risen through the ranks to become district marketing manager for Michigan, Indiana, Atlanta, UK, Cleveland, Texas and New York. After three years at The Oaks, Inc. as vice president and general marketing manager, he transitioned to senior director, airline marketing at Alamo Rent A Car.
After staying at Alamo for two years, Bloodworth joined Pan Am World Airways as senior vice president, worldwide marketing, advertising and frequent flier programs, before heading back to Alamo as vice president of sales. In December of 1998 he became executive vice president of Auto Europe, where he stayed for two years before landing his first CEO position at My Travel UK and My Travel USA, as well as president of the My Travel cruise and air packaging division. He also served on My Travel Group, PLC’s board of directors from November 2004 to February 2007. In February 2007 he became CEO of Thomas Cook Group, PLC, UK and Ireland, as well as a member of its board of directors, after ensuring a successful acquisition of My Travel by Thomas Cook. He retired in 2008, but his friend Ed Rudner called him back into action in 2010 to start a new division of Online Vacation Center.
While John Bloodworth’s rise from a small Texas town to CEO of a major travel company is a stunning achievement, what his friends and colleagues remember most about him is his integrity, work ethic and compassion for others.
“I suppose the characteristic I admire most about John was his ability to cultivate a relationship,” said Don Walker, co-president, WMPH Vacations, who worked for Bloodworth for 14 years at three different companies. “He was a master. His key to success was so simple. He was genuine, honest, direct, and he actually cared. I don’t think he ever realized how very rare and special that was. Many people talk a good game but John lived it. If he gave someone his word, they could count on it. I have never heard John promise anything to someone and not deliver. Ever. If something went awry, John would fix it. It doesn’t matter what he had to do, no excuses, he fixed it. I have never met anyone with his integrity, his honesty or his compassion.
“He led by example. I have never known anyone who worked harder than John, and he loved it. He was more demanding of himself than anyone could ever be. He expected those around him to share that same work ethic, that same passion, and he demanded their best at all times. People didn’t give John their best, however, because they had to. They did it because he made them want to. In the end, anyone who has ever worked with him is better off for it. I know that I could not have asked for a better role model, a better mentor, or a better friend."
“John was the most dependable person I've ever known,” said Tony McKinnon, chairman of director of Online Vacation Center Holdings Corp. and a close friend of Bloodworth’s. “You could give him any challenge, no matter how difficult, and could be assured that he would take care of it. He worked for me a number of years at Delta and PanAm and we developed a great and lasting friendship. He was an outstanding leader who demanded a lot from those who worked for him but gave much more to them in return.
“He was like a younger brother to me and I will miss him greatly.”
Even during his battle with cancer, Bloodworth’s friends were struck by how he continued to take care of those around him. Walker recalled, “John was laying in the hospital and although he could no longer speak, he was quite lucid. Hospice had been called in and his family and some friends were present. His wife, Liana, asked him if he had any special requests for a service. John repeatedly shook his head no and motioned for a pen and some paper. His final written words were...'Have a Great Party!' She posted it on his Facebook page.“
Bloodworth is survived by his wife, Liana, his two sons, Chad and Dillon and his two grandchildren, Kanyn and Chase.
Want to share your memories of John Bloodworth? Visit Travel Agent's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TravelAgentMagazine