Certified Vacations' New Direction

After a brief stint on the for-sale market last year, Certified Vacations—which operates Continental Airlines Vacations, Delta Vacations and Future Vacations—in late 2006 decided not to sell, and instead enter 2007 with a revamped management team and new mantra to improve the company's growth. Founder and Chairman Michael S. Egan replaces Celeste Allen as CEO, and former travel agency owner Herb Edelberg in January was appointed to the newly created position of chief operating officer. Edelberg recently spoke with Travel Agent about the role he plays at Certified Vacations and the company's new approach to working with agents.

Redefined Product Offerings

As the founder of New York City-based Direct Travel, Edelberg grew the travel management company to $300 million in sales in 1999, when the company was sold. At Certified, Edelberg says he will use that experience handling both business and leisure travel to fine tune relations with the agent community and to redefine the company's product offerings. "As we speak, we're working on new incentive and marketing programs and we're also going to be overhauling and streamlining some of the product line, so not only will the experience of working with Certified be new and refreshing, but the products also will be more clear and easily defined through value-priced vacations," he says. F.Y.I.

Living in an E-Commerce World

Certified Vacations is also enhancing the company's web site to include direct Internet bookings. "We're in an e-commerce world today. There's a lot going on behind the scenes to have adjustments made to the Internet experience of Certified to heighten the number of people coming to the site," he says, adding that agents can expect to see such changes, and incentive programs, debut in the next 90 days. "All that will translate into new and expanded business."

To further grow business, Edelberg says Certified Vacations is also putting together "attractive programs and a well-trained sales and reservation staff" within the company's existing relationships with Continental and Delta. "It's certainly a priority to work closely to improve and redefine the product with our branded partners and to instill new dynamics in the company to help the processes in terms of sales and customer service," he says.

"All of these areas are something that I was always deeply involved in from the start and development of my own company," continues Edelberg, who as COO, will manage the day-to-day operations of the company. "The parallels are all the same: You're dealing with people skills, reservation systems and new channels of sales and clientele. I have a deep sensitivity as to what an agency might be looking for in a supplier partnership."

It's All About Who You Know

Edelberg came to the position of Certified Vacations' COO after a mutual friend introduced him to Egan.

"I always knew of Michael Egan—he's been in the travel industry for 25, 30 years or more," Edelberg says. "I had not met him before, but I knew of his accomplishments, and that he ran a fine company."

Working with Egan and getting the chance to redefine a company he so highly regarded, was an offer Edelberg couldn't refuse. "It gives me a chance to rise to the occasion of a challenge," he says. "We have a company that we're taking a new direction on and I'm here to inject new vitality and improve the product and customer service as well as improved the company's growth."