Delta Vacations Reps Talk Hurricane Irma, New Products at Delta Vacations University

Patricia Christensen, director of product development for Delta Vacations; Jennie Ho, Delta Vacations' new president; Elizabeth Moriarty, vice president of product development for Delta Vacations and Eric Fandek, senior director of product development, for Delta Vacations. // Photo by Joe Pike 
ATLANTA, GA - As part of our ongoing coverage of Delta Vacations’ annual Delta Vacations University conference and trade show, Travel Agent chatted with top Delta Vacations executives about everything from the tour operator’s impressive handling of calls during Hurricane Irma to what destinations are trending upward for the company.

Here’s what they had to say.

Leading up to Hurricane Irma, Delta Vacations had its two busiest days in the last three years, says Jennie Ho, Delta’s new president. Delta’s call center, which increased staff by roughly 30 percent during Irma, answered 98 percent of the calls with an average wait time of only one minute and 20 seconds, says Ho.

“For me, personally, this is was my first rodeo,” says Ho, who only took over in March, "but it was made easier for me because Delta Vacations is a well-oiled machine. I’m very proud of the entire team.”

Elizabeth Moriarty, vice president of product development, told Travel Agent the two Caribbean destinations that clients were being rebooked to the most during the hurricane were Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

"Both of those destinations have been doing very well and we have a lot of great product in both of them,” say Moriarty, who noted that Delta recently picked up the Goldeneye hotel on Oracabessa bay on the northern coastline of Jamaica.

Following the general session held earlier in the morning, we chatted with Donnie Dawson, acting director of tourism for Jamaica, who confirmed that Jamaica is doing exceptionally well, but with “a heavy heart.”

“We are open for business, but it is bittersweet,” says Dawson. “Jamaica was thankfully not affected by Hurricane Irma, but our hearts bleed for all of our Caribbean brothers and sisters who were affected.

“We haven’t stopped moving forward,” continues Dawson. “We are ramping up for a big advertising campaign in October and all of our plans and goals are still in place.”

What’s New and Trending at Delta Vacations

Delta Vacation’s biggest product announcement so far is its new Tahiti offering. Patricia Christensen, director of product development, told Travel Agent Delta Vacations will offer four islands in Tahiti, including Tahiti Island and Bora Bora

Moriarty says Delta added more than 1,000 new rooms to its hotel inventory. Delta has also aggressively expanded its Europe product offerings. Moriarty also says Colombia has been hot this year and domestic travel within the U.S. has also gone up extensively, which could be attributed to the Zika scare that has been leading many clients to travel within the country. Moriarty says that Nashville, in particular, has been especially hot. 

This is also the first year Delta Vacation is having a class on Cuba, having just added the destination for the first time earlier this year, says Eric Fandek, senior director of product development. 

The main priority in selling Cuba, he says, is ensuring that the agents are keeping the clients well informed on what to expect from Cuba from an infrastructure standpoint. 

Other Notes from the Show

The affects of Hurricane Irma forced Delta Vacations to cancel one class, which focused on selling the Florida Keys, and to slightly modify another one on what’s new in the Caribbean. The Keys were still represented at the show, however, as they had a booth for the trade show portion of the conference.

Moriarty also says about 50 percent of this year’s attendees are first-timers.

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