Scenic and Emerald Waterways have hired industry veteran Rob Huffman as vice president of trade sales for the U.S. market, Travel Agent has learned from Joni Rein, the group’s vice president of sales and marketing, USA.
Effective today, Huffman will be responsible for Scenic’s travel agent community engagement as well as the line’s business development managers. Most recently, Huffman served as regional director of sales for the southern region, Viking Cruises.
"Our continued focus on driving sales through the travel agent community demands having a top-notch leader who is both familiar to the agents and has the experience and know how to assist them, and us, succeed,” said Rein. “Rob’s history is one of continued accomplishments and growth and we believe that makes him a perfect fit for this role."
Based in Charlotte, NC, Huffman has spent more than 30 years in the travel industry, starting as a manager of Uniglobe H&H Travel in Tennessee. He spent 20 years at Carnival Cruise Line focused primarily on sales, training and marketing efforts in several territories, eventually being promoted to regional vice president of sales covering nine states -- which quickly expanded into 18 states.
Huffman joined Viking River Cruises in 2013, rising to become director of trade sales North America for both the river and ocean products. Rob’s focus at both Carnival and Viking was on driving trade sales, providing marketing support and handling agent training and consumer presentations.
“I am delighted and honored to be joining the Scenic and Emerald Waterways teams,” said Huffman. “More importantly, I look forward to working closely with travel retailers across the country in growing both brands in the U.S. market. Our steadfast and unwavering commitment to the travel agent community will continue to be our top priority and we are committed to their success.”
Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours includes several products -- all-inclusive escorted tours, two river lines, Scenic with 15 “Space Ships” and Emerald Waterways with seven river vessels; and, coming in 2018, a small oceangoing “Discovery Yacht” called Scenic Eclipse.
What else is new? Rein told Travel Agent late Tuesday that the recently inked river partnership with National Geographic is a “phenomenal coup for us, as we can align our brand with a strong brand like National Geographic and offer our guests the most incredible curated river cruises.”
Those begin with 2018 sailings in Europe on the Rhine and Danube and in the Bordeaux region, as well as on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River. In 2019, the program will expand to the Netherlands and Portugal’s Douro River.
“The reaction has been phenomenal from both the consumer aspect – the National Geographic consumer – and from our travel agent partners,” Rein said.
Rein’s goal is to grow Scenic’s footprint -- “to bring the line into the U.S. market and really make some inroads.”
Scenic has just launched new escorted Egypt, Jordan and South Africa escorted tours within the last 30 days. For Egypt, in particular, “there is tremendous pent-up demand and so we’re seeing that,” Rein said.
Scenic’s sister line has just added some new Rhine itineraries in 2018 and one differentiating feature, said Rein, is that they offer a more intimate look into villages along the routes. For example, guests will be able to explore the Dutch countryside in Holland and Belgium.
Also, Emerald Active is a new product appealing to guests who want to focus on fitness and active pursuits. “We’re going to be offering a number of things for 2018 like yoga on the Sun Deck, canoeing in Portugal and more guided hiking and biking options,” said Rein. “Emerald is going to be a much more active brand,” she noted.
Coming up for Emerald In 2018 there will be more departures on the Mekong, and the line will charter the Mekong Navigator. “We’re looking to expand our presence in Southeast Asia for 2019,” she said.
In addition, Rein said that soon Emerald is going to be announcing voyages on Russia's Volga River in 2019, as well as dates for Egyptian river cruises.