Who’s Where in Travel: New at American Queen Steamboat Company, Protravel

Hiring sign
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Companies throughout the travel industry made major executive appointments this week. 

In river cruise news, American Queen Steamboat Company President and COO Ted Sykes announced plans to step down by the end of the year. Sykes joined the river cruise line six years ago after the launch of its first boat, American Queen. Since that time the company has expanded to the Pacific Northwest with the American Empress on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in 2014 and launched the American Duchess, the first purpose-built boutique paddlewheeler on the Mississippi River basin, in 2017. American Queen Steamboat Company also recently announced that the American Countess is under construction for launch in slightly over a year.    

Michele Capaccio
Michele Capaccio

In travel agency news, this week Protravel International, LLC, announced the promotion of Michele (LaRosa) Capaccio to chief operating officer. A 35-year travel industry veteran, Capaccio is overseeing day-to-day operations of the travel agency organization and reports to Protravel President Becky Powell. Capaccio first joined Protravel in 1986 and has held a wide range of responsibilities within the organization since then. 

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Also this week travel management company Carlson Wagonlit Travel named Derek Sharp managing director of CWT Meetings & Events. Sharp will be based in London, reporting to Kelly Kuhn, CWT’s chief customer officer. He joins CWT from Travelport, where he served as SVP and managing director of the company’s air commerce line of business. 

In destination news, the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau announced a number of new appointments this week. Colleen Pace joins the CVB from Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa as the organization’s new chief marketing officer. Dana Fury, who most recently worked for Universal Pictures, will serve as marketing manager, while Julie Sinclair, a former editor for a wide variety of lifestyle, travel and hospitality publications, will be the director of brand communications. Donna Sturgeon, a Palm Springs resident for over 20 years and former director of work-based learning for the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, will serve as the CVB’s new manager of the Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program, while Marissa Willman has been promoted to director of digital marketing. Finally, Jean Paul Zapata has joined the CVB from Santa Monica PR agency Klick Communications as media relations manager. 

In the Caribbean, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism appointed Joe Boschulte as an industry specialist aimed at deepening the destination’s working relations with the cruise industry. Boschulte, who formerly served as president and CEO of The West Indian Company Limited, will work to bolster the work of the Ports of the Virgin Islands, an alliance between the Virgin Islands Port Authority, The West Indian Company Limited and the Department of Tourism.

In tour operator news, this week Intrepid Group announced the official appointment of Darshika Jones as its new director of North America. Effective immediately, Jones will head the North American region. Jones replaces former North American Director Leigh Barnes, who moved into the newly created role of chief purpose officer in July to focus on developing the company’s purpose-based initiatives. 

In air travel news, this week American Airlines made a number of moves to integrate its people and communications teams. In the new structure, Ron DeFeo will be promoted to SVP of global engagement and Patrick O’Keeffe will continue to oversee the people department in his role as SVP of people. Both will continue to report to Elise Eberwein, EVP of people and communications.

In hotel news, this week Auberge Resorts Collection appointed Alfred G. Ortega as its national sales director. A native of Panama, Ortega has served as director of accounts, group Caribbean and Latin America sales at Marriott International Luxury Brands, as well as 15 years in various roles with Ritz-Carlton in the Caribbean and Mexico. 

Montage International named Mandy Holloway SVP human resources this week. Prior to Montage International, Holloway served as vice president of human resources and employee engagement at Universal Studios Hollywood, NBCUniversal in Universal City, California.

Finally, a number of individual properties made new leadership appointments this week:

  • Lotte New York named Brent Howard as the director of the property’s Towers accommodations. 
  • Viceroy named Brad Busby the general manager of Hotel Emblem San Francisco
  • Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, WY, named Kim Hoffman its new director of sales and marketing. 
  • Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa appointed Fernando Santana its new general manager. 
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton named new general managers for three of its properties: Michael Kauffeld for the Embassy Suites by Hilton Indianapolis Downtown; Christopher Akoury at Embassy Suites by Hilton Parsippany; and Rebecca Kirisits for Embassy Suites by Hilton Secaucus Meadowlands.
  • The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar named Braedan Quigley its new director of sales and marketing. 
  • Destination Hotels made several key hires at the new Events at Bell Works in New Jersey: Tricia Tierney as director of events; Jennifer Garrabrant as events manager; and Judith Vargas as accounting manager. 
  • Finally, Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto named Dean Gonzalez its new director of sales and marketing. 

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