Travel Leaders Continues to Add to Executive Arsenal

Gabriel Rizzi
Gabriel Rizzi

Travel Leaders Group continues to make executive appointments within its organization, under the leadership of CEO Ninan Chacko, who joined TLG last September.

Several newly created positions have just been announced for the company, which is a powerhouse umbrella corporation that includes, Tzell Travel, Travel Leaders franchise group, Protravel and Nexion, to name but a few. All agency brands combined produce nearly $21 billion in annual sales volume. Across the enterprise, TLG has approximately 40,000 travel agent advisors in over 6,500 locations; that comprises about 30 percent of all travel agencies in North America.

One new position is that of chief sales officer and head of corporate travel, reporting directly to Chacko. Filling the role is Gabriel Rizzi, a former vice president of sales for Dun and Bradstreet, who will lead “a matrixed sales and marketing organization across Travel Leaders Group,” according to the press release announcing his appointment. 

Synergizing Travel Leaders is definitely one of Rizzi’s goals. In the release announcing his appointment, Chacko said, “Through his matrixed leadership role, we will ensure common systems, methodologies and best practices across Travel Leaders Group that will propel us toward further growth….
so our brands can attract even more of the industry’s best agents and agencies, to those geared toward winning new corporate clientele.”

And, just this morning, the organization appointed two well-known travel industry veterans to TLG’s hotel division and airline relations teams. Both are newly created positions.

Art Jimenez, formerly senior director of leisure sales for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, was named the vice president of marketing for the hotel division; he’s a very familiar face to travel agents and tour operators, having created incentives, rewards and educational programs for that market. Jimenez, reporting directly to Hotel Division Senior Vice President Erick Rodriguez, joins the division’s other executive leadership, including Christina Gambini, vice president of supplier relations and program management, and Mai Meyaart, vice president of agent engagement.

Meanwhile, Shaun Malay was named vice president of airline relations; he hails most recently from FlightCentre USA, where he was vice president of airline contracting and strategy. Malay reports directly to Airline Relations Senior Vice President Peter Vlitas, who said in a release that TLG will “seek to further strengthen the already strong relationships we have with our airline partners.”

“Shaun Malay brings more than 20 years of experience in building and aligning organizations to drive results, which should ultimately help our travel agents as they continue building their vital air sales on both the leisure and corporate sides,” Vlitas said.

The moves come just weeks after the formation of the Elite Travel Division was announced, which brings Protravel and Tzell under one umbrella. Gail Grimmett was named president of the division; she hails most recently from Delta Air Lines, where she spent 19 years. Grimmett, who reports directly to Chacko, has a fascinating task in front of her. Protravel and Tzell together generate nearly $4 billion in annual sales volume. With the move, Patrick Fragale, president of Protravel, departs TLG and Barry Liben, who had most recently served as Tzell’s CEO, moves up as chairman of the two agencies.
A spokesman for TLG said that Protravel will remain with Virtuoso and that Tzell will remain with Signature Travel Network, and that the two agencies will retain their identities. But upon announcing Grimmett’s appointment, Chacko said that TLG’s goal was ultimately to further strengthen the “already enviable position our award-winning travel agents from both Protravel and Tzell maintain within the industry, whether they are focused on luxury leisure, corporate or entertainment.” Grimmett, while serving as Delta’s Senior Vice President, Global New York, had worked with Protravel and Tzell from the supplier side; she had full financial and commercial responsibility for the airline’s domestic and international performance in New York. During this time, she delivered over $6 billion of revenue to the company annually.