Who’s Where in Travel: Leadership Changes at Travel Leaders, Tour Ops

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It’s been a busy week for executive changes at major travel agency brands and tour operators. Here’s what you need to know. 

Gail Grimmett
Gail Grimmett

This week Gail Grimmett has announced her plans to leave Travel Leaders Group toward the end of May. Grimmett has served as president of Travel Leaders Group’s luxury travel brands, Protravel International and Tzell Travel Group, for the past two years.

With Grimmett’s departure, Becky Powell will continue to lead Protravel, now serving as president, Travel Leaders said. Cindy Schlansky and Monty Swaney will continue their senior leadership roles at Tzell Travel Group, now serving as co-presidents. All three leaders will take on additional responsibilities for strategic direction of the brands, working with Travel Leaders Group CEO Ninan Chacko.

In tour operator news,Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, both part of The Travel Corporation, have announced Jon Grutzner will take over as their new U.S.A. president, replacing current president Phil Cappelli. The two will work together until the end of May, when Cappelli officially steps down. Cappelli said that he was stepping down to spend more time with his family after a vigorous travel schedule over the past few years, during which he grew U.S. business by over 40 percent. 

In cruise news, this week Carnival Cruise Line announced the leadership team for its new West Coast ship, the Carnival Panorama. Carlo Queirolo, who has been with the cruise line for 33 years, will serve as the ship’s captain, joined by fellow Carnival vets Nunzio Priolo as chief engineer and Damir Mrsic as hotel director. The ship will begin offering cruises to the Mexican Riviera from Long Beach in 2019, marking the first time Carnival has homeported a new ship on the West Coast in 20 years. 

In other news from Carnival, this week the cruise line appointed Lars Ljoen as its new executive vice president of marine operations. Ljoen is currently the executive vice president and managing director of Carnival Maritime, the marine service unit of the Costa Group in Hamburg, Germany. In his new role he will be responsible for overseeing all of Carnival Cruise Line’s marine operations, including nautical and technical operations, environmental compliance and safety. 

Also this week fellow Carnival Corporation brand Costa Cruises named Norbert Stiekema as its new chief strategy and digital officer. Stiekema will work closely with President Neil Palomba and heads of business units to lead a “digital transformation” at the cruise line, promoting the development of new digital technologies and new business models and solutions. 

Other Carnival Corp. brands Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Carnival Australia also made a number of executive appointments and promotions this week: 

  • Anthony Kaufman was promoted to executive vice president, professional services for Princess, Holland America, Seabourn and Carnival Australia, where he will oversee financial planning and reporting, financial analysis and strategy.
  • Kelly Clark, formerly the senior vice president and chief ethics officer for the four cruise brands, has assumed oversight of the legal department as general counsel.
  • Natalya Leahy has been promoted to senior vice president and chief financial officer for Holland America Line and Seabourn
  • Simeon Waldron has been promoted to senior vice president and chief financial officer for Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia
  • Stuart Allison has been promoted to senior vice president, Asia-Pacific Planning and Operations, for Princess Cruises
  • Neil Rippon has been promoted to vice president, domestics, Europe, and exotics product management for Princess Cruises
  • Lorna Warren has joined Princess Cruises as vice president, guest services
  • Shelley Wise has been promoted to vice president integrated marketing (North America) for Princess Cruises

In air travel news, Silver Airways and Seaborne Airlines announced that Steve Rossum of Silver Airways will serve as CEO of the newly combined airline, which just successfully closed on a merger this week. Current Seaborne CEO Ben Munson will resume his role as president of the aviation consulting firm, Embark Aviation, and will continue as an advisor to the company. The combined airline will continue operating Silver’s route network in the Bahamas, Florida, and beyond under the Silver Airways banner and Seaborne’s route network throughout Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands under the Seaborne name. 

Also this week airline connectivity provider Gogo announced a number of leadership changes. John Wade will serve as the first president of Gogo's Commercial Aviation Division (CA). In this new position, he will have end-to-end responsibility for managing all aspects of the CA business. Sergio Aguirre will serve as president of Gogo's Business Aviation Division, while Jon Cobin will serve in the newly created role of chief strategy officer and EVP corporate development. Anand Chari, who has served as the company's chief technology officer since 2011, will move into a new role as strategic technology advisor. 

In other technology news this week, Traveltek is continuing to expand its team in North America to support its expansion in that market. The company appointed four new business development managers this week. Kevin Walker, Ivonne Turcios and Yenedi Perez will be based at the firm’s U.S. headquarters in Miami, while Clarice Bongolan will work out of Los Angeles

In destination news this week, Brad Dean, CEO of the newly established Puerto Rico Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), made two key appointments to DMO’s leadership team. Leah Chandler has been named chief marketing officer, effective in mid-May, while Alma Pedrosa has been named chief financial officer, effective July 1. These are the first two leadership positions to be filled since Dean was made CEO. 

In hotel news this week, Interstate Hotels & Resorts named Fernando Salazar as the senior vice president of food & beverage. Salazar was most recently managing director of the Culinary Institute of America (San Antonio campus), and was named as the official ambassador of the CIA. 

In Hawaii, the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach named Jacqueline Co to the newly created role of director of guest experience. The hotel said that the new position will answer a growing need for a constant guest touch point; in it, Cole will be responsible for building relationships with the hotel’s guests and World of Hyatt members. 

Finally, this week David Mars was named general manager of The Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort, a luxury resort in northwest Florida.

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