|MLT President John Caldwell spent the first few months when the moves were being made “meeting with our agencies and explaining what the process will be and just kept communications up with them.”|
It’s always a risky proposition when you look to move roughly 250 employees from the cozy confines of their Minnesota homes to unfamiliar territory in Atlanta, especially after the company just came off its most successful year in history. But that’s exactly what MLT Vacations did a little more than a year ago when the Edina, MN-based tour operator decided to align itself with parent company, Delta Air Lines, by having all of its Minnesota employees relocate to Georgia.
John Caldwell, MLT Vacations’ new president and the face of the company during this stressful time, told Travel Agent that MLT Vacations is on pace to enjoy its best year, financially speaking, breaking its own company record set last year. But this story didn’t always look like it was going to have a happy ending, especially when a little more than 100 of the 250 employees who were given the option to relocate decided instead to stay put and resign.
“When the moves were being made, we had a lot of agencies who just had some basic concerns about whether their customers were still being taken care of well,” says Caldwell. “So, I spent the first few months meeting with our agencies and explaining what the process will be and just kept communications up with them, kept making sure the commissions were competitive. And after that, I think the agents’ concerns began to die down in a hurry.”
As a travel industry executive with more than 25 years of experience, Caldwell was armed with the tools necessary to take an already successful company like MLT Vacations into uncharted territory. He has held a variety of leadership roles within the sales and marketing divisions of both Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines. Prior to being named president of MLT, he was managing director of national account sales and specialty sales for Delta, KLM Royal Dutch Air lines and Air France. He was responsible for overseeing corporate, agency and specialty account programs for the U.S. and Canada.
“One of the advantages I had was the amount [of] time I spent with agencies and companies,” he says. “I was based in sales, I was a rep, I was a district manager, I was a managing director in sales, so a lot of our customers [were] the same customers I was dealing with at the airlines. Many of the larger accounts knew me already and knew me quite well. They knew how much I respected and appreciated travel agencies. We rely on those agencies to drive our business.”
Caldwell says the decision to relocate came about because MLT felt some opportunities to work together with the parent company, Delta, were being lost because they weren’t aligned geographically.
|MLT Vacations recently added to its package offerings the Baja California resort towns of La Paz, home of the popular dive site Los Islotes, and Loreto.|
The first move to get the geographical shift in motion was moving MLT’s IT team from Minneapolis to Atlanta to align MLT’s technology with Delta’s. Roughly 40 employees working under Elizabeth Moriarty, MLT Vacations’ vice president of product development, were spared of the decision to move or not since Caldwell decided to make them “virtual” employees allowing them to dodge a move to Atlanta and instead continue to work for MLT remotely.
“You set a clear mission for employees in a time of change to take great care of customers and then you have to make sure you take great care of the employees,” Caldwell says. “We take great care of our partners here.”
And the fact that MLT was still adding destinations and enhancing its existing products ensured agents too that the company wouldn’t skip a beat.
In fact, Moriarty says MLT in the last year has seen some nice growth in Europe and Latin America, a region where Delta continues to grow. In Europe, Moriarty says the “usual suspects,” such as London, Paris, Rome, Venice and Barcelona, continue to blossom for MLT. MLT has added more than 700 hotels in Europe, including 100 this year alone. The Europe product has increased by about 50 percent in the last three years, says Moriarty.
|Venice and other major European cities continue to blossom for MLT, whose Europe product has increased about 50 percent in the last three years.|
“First of all, life at MLT is busier than ever and it’s actually refreshing to be working with a number of new people who all have a fresh pair of eyes,” says Moriarty. “We have a great strategy moving forward and the team we have continues to do an excellent job and continues to work well with new colleagues. I have not had one of our partners say they have any concerns. They are excited for the future and excited to see this business continue to grow.”
Hawaii, however, may pose a little concern from agents who specialize in selling the Aloha State since MLT will officially end its partnership with United Vacations at the end of this year and subsequently lose a good chunk of flights there. Caldwell, however, says agents’ concerns about Hawaii should be alleviated.
“There should really be no change as it relates to United customers heading to Hawaii,” says Caldwell. “It won’t really have a major impact on our business there. Delta Vacations has an incredible network to Hawaii. We have a partnership with Alaska Airlines, in conjunction with Hawaiian Airlines, where we can offer great rates.”
About MLT Vacations
MLT Vacations, one of the largest providers of vacation packages in the United States, manages multiple vacation brands, including Delta Vacations, in partnership with Air France Holidays and Alitalia Vacations, United Vacations and Worry-Free Vacations. Through its unique airline partnerships, MLT Vacations offers some of the lowest available airfares, discounted hotel rates at thousands of appealing hotels worldwide, a broad selection of sightseeing excursions and activities, and bonus miles for travelers through frequent flyer programs, with a best-price guarantee. Agents are also provided attractive financial rewards such as commission on all vacation package components, including all airfares, and lucrative incentive opportunities, ongoing training and education, and superior service for travel agents and their valued clients.
The Future of MLT University
Although many employees had a difficult choice whether to move or resign, MLT Vacations’ popular MLT University trade show will be staying put at least through 2014, Caldwell says.
This year’s show will be held from September 28-30 at the Minneapolis Convention Center and is on pace to attract roughly 3,000 attendees, Caldwell says.
“I sat down with the team and said, ‘We are not changing anything about MLT U, we are only making it better. We are not going to change [the] structure,’ ” he says, noting that a survey was sent out to MLT’s core customers asking if they would like to see the show’s venue move. “We just thought Minnesota was the perfect place for these agents coming from the East Coast, West Coast. It’s a hub that makes it easy for people coming from all over the country to get to.”
|Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa is one of three hotels MLT uses in Samana—its fifth and newest Dominican Republic vacation destination.|
Personnel and Product News
In April, MLT Vacations named Tina Iglio as senior vice president of marketing, where she will be responsible for marketing, product development, revenue management and distribution, and corporate communications. She will report to Caldwell.
Before joining MLT, Iglio was the vice president of U.S. sales at Travelport and was responsible for leading and growing U.S. travel agency sales. Prior to that role, she was the vice president of marketing, where she had responsibility for Travelport’s global brand, customer research and marketing programs.
Iglio has held global roles based in the U.S. and UK, including with Travelport, as the vice president of marketing at Ericsson, and as the vice president of marketing at Marconi Corporation, where she held global and regional roles with responsibilities covering marketing, public relations and industry analyst relations.
As far as product news goes, MLT Vacations is offering agents booking through Delta Vacations additional air capacity to Costa Rica via its airline partner, Delta Air Lines. Celebrating 15 years of continuous service to Costa Rica, Delta is adding a number of flights from gateways across the U.S., including Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Minneapolis. Some of the extra flights have already been added while others are seasonal service beginning later this year.
One of the new flights is a daily nonstop between Los Angeles (LAX) and San Jose (SJO), which began earlier this month. This flight alone adds an additional 1,260 weekly available seats to Costa Rica for travel agents to sell through Delta Vacations. In total, Delta offers four daily nonstop flights and six seasonal nonstop flights to Costa Rican destinations.
Also, in July MLT Vacations, building on new air service from its airline partner Aeromexico, announced the addition of vacation packages for two new resort destinations in Mexico.
Agents can book vacation packages for their clients to the Baja California Sur resort destinations of La Paz and Loreto through Aeromexico Vacations and Delta Vacations.
Travel is aboard MLT Vacations’ airline partner Aeromexico, which recently added twice weekly nonstop flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and both La Paz (LAP) and Loreto (LTO). These flights are scheduled for Thursdays and Sundays. Delta Air Lines offers connecting service to LAX from destinations across the U.S.
For La Paz vacations, MLT Vacations is offering four hotels. They are the Araiza Palmira Hotel; CostaBaja Resort and Spa; Seven Crown La Paz Centro; and the Seven Crown La Paz Malecon. Four properties are also available for vacation packages in Loreto. They are the Hotel Santa Fe at The Islands of Loreto; Hacienda Suites Loreto; La Mision Loreto; and the Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa at The Islands of Loreto. All properties are available through Aeromexico Vacations and Delta Vacations.
In April, MLT Vacations announced an increase in its airline partners’ capacity and the addition of new resorts to its Mexican product offerings. Delta Air Lines is adding non-stop flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara.
Aeromexico is adding four summer non-stop flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Cancun and Huatulco. The new resorts are the Valentin Imperial Maya and the Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’an, located in Riviera Maya.
Delta Air Lines increases frequency from Saturday only to daily service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Puerto Vallarta. One additional non-stop Saturday flight was also added to Guadalajara.
As far as the Caribbean goes, MLT Vacations recently added a new destination to its Dominican Republic product offering. Agents booking through MLT’s Delta Vacations brand can now offer their clients three new resorts in the region of Samana, a territory that Travel Agent has urged our readers to keep an eye on for years.
Owned and operated by Bahia Principe, the resorts are the Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado Don Pablo Collection; Grand Bahia Principe Cayacoa; and the Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo.
Samana is the fifth destination in the Dominican Republic offered by MLT Vacations. In total, MLT’s portfolio in the country includes 59 hotels. Punta Cana is currently the most popular Dominican Republic destination for MLT Vacations. In fact, last year MLT Vacations experienced double-digit growth in Punta Cana, year-over-year.