WestJet has announced that Tim Croyle, vice president, WestJet Vacations and cargo has decided to retire. “The decision has been made with careful consideration and with mixed emotions,” said Croyle. “I would like to thank all of WestJet’s travel trade, hotel and destination partners for the support and loyalty they have shown for more than a decade. WestJet was purchased earlier this year by Gerald Schwartz and Onex Corp. earlier this year. Croyle joined WestJet in 2003, as manager-airports projects holding a variety of roles before moving to WestJet Vacations in 2010. He was subsequently promoted to vice-president, WestJet Vacations, and then, last year, interim executive vice-president, commercial role. Most recently, Croyle took on responsibility for the WestJet cargo team and its in-house transition.
Sofia Williamson, former president of the NAJ Group where she spent more than 20 years, has joined Stefan Merkl’s team at Explore Marketing, which serves a number of U.S.-based tour and travel businesses. Williamson will collaborate with Explore Marketing on setting up sales missions, supporting clients with account management, and more. Said Merkl: “This addition to the team provides Explore Marketing with an even greater bandwidth to further support our existing and new clients’ achieve their goals.”
Ahmad M. Wardak, has been appointed executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Bluegreen Vacations. As chief marketing officer, Wardak will oversee all aspects of the company’s marketing operations and customer care as well as sales operations at the Company’s 51 percent-owned Bass Pro Shops joint venture. Wardak joined Bluegreen Vacations in 2003 and most recently served as executive vice president of corporate development and Innovation, where he led the Company’s strategic and corporate development as well as the business intelligence and analytics functions. From 2010 to 2017, he led the corporate marketing function at Bluegreen Vacations. Under Wardak’s leadership, the company’s corporate vacation package sales grew from approximately 45,000 to over 200,000 packages sold annually.
Kelly Cookes, who had just been promoted to head of commercial partnerships and sales planning at Thomas Cook just before the company shut down on September 23rd, is joining Advantage Travel Partnership as its leisure director. Cookes worked for Thomas Cook for six years. She joined Thomas Cook-owned Freedom Travel Group as relationship manager in 2013 and became its general manager in 2014, a position she held until August when she was promoted to head of commercial partnerships and sales planning across all Cook’s UK distribution channels.
Lori Healey has left her job as CEO of Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority—it runs the McCormick Place convention center and the Navy Pier, which is one of the largest tourist attractions in the U.S. Midwest—to become president of the new Chicago regional business unit of Clayco, a development and design firm. It is also where a number of veterans of the mayoral administrations of Richard Daley (1989-2011) and Rahm Emanuel (2011-2019). Among the high-profile positions that she has held, Healey was once Mayor Daley’s chief of staff.
Alexandre Cavalcanti, a 20-year veteran of American Airlines is preparing for a new career with the company. He is leaving his post as a regional sales director in Brazil to become leisure sales manager for the Dallas-based carrier. From the Dallas-Ft. Worth, he will handle domestic and international sales from major customers, such as carriers, consolidators and travel agencies.
In Alberta, Terry Dow has been named executive director of the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association. She brings to the position more than 25 years of experience in tourism, hospitality, sales and leadership across Southern Ontario and Northern Saskatchewan. Dow replaces James Leppan who left earlier in the year to work with Travel Alberta. Dow was previously executive director for the Waskesiu and Area Wilderness Region (WWR) where she worked closely with members to develop and promote incredible visitor experiences in Northern Saskatchewan.
Enterprise Holdings Inc.—a its brands include Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car—has announced that CEO Pamela M. Nicholson will retire from the company at the end of this year. Her successor will be named after a meeting of the company’s board of directors in December. Nicholson is only the third CEO in the privately held company’s more than 60-year history and the first to come from outside the Taylor family, which founded the company in St. Louis in 1957. She is not only the highest-ranking woman in the entire U.S. car rental industry, but also the highest-ranking woman among the world’s largest travel companies and, based on company revenue, among the top female CEOs across all industries. Nicholson joined the company in 1981 after graduating from college. She steadily moved up the ranks, becoming senior vice president of North American Operations in 1999. She was named chief operating officer in 2003, appointed President in 2008 and promoted to chief executive officer in 2013.
Steve Hayes, president of Visit Pensacola has announced that he has accepted the position of president & CEO of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater in Pinellas County. Hayes had been with Visit Pensacola since 2013. Previously, he served for more than 25 years with Visit Tampa Bay; he held the position of executive vice president when he left the organization. Hayes succeeds David Downing, who left Visit St. Pete/Clearwater last February. To help ensure a smooth transition, Hayes will continue his dedication to the organization until December 12, 2019.
Meet AC (Atlantic City) president and CEO Jim Wood is leaving the organization at the end of the year to return to Kentucky and care for his wife, who suffered a fall earlier this year, the organization announced in a release. Wood is the first CEO of the organization, founded in 2014 as the sales and marketing organization for the city by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. He came to Atlantic City from Louisville, Kentucky, where he was president and CEO for of the city’s CVB more than 10 years.
Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold recently announced the promotion of Anthony Sollecito Rich from northeast district sales manager to director of national accounts and luxury brand ambassador for the United States. Rich, who spent three years serving as northeast district sales manager, began his career in the music business, and for over a decade produced a wide range of Grammy Award-winning artists while leading marketing and branding campaigns for Jive Records. Rich left the music business in 2015 to join Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold. Aside from growing sales in his territory, Insight Vacations said that Rich built the brands’ music format, creating soundtracks for the various destinations featured for Insight and Luxury Gold. He also earned a top achiever award for 2019 for his efforts in growing sales in New York and New Jersey.
Sally Zhou has joined Ctrip.com as a marketing executive. She joins the company from H.I.S. International Tours Inc., where she served for more than six years as a supervisor.
Mathew “Manako” Kenichi Tanaka as sales manager. In his role at the O’ahu Visitors Bureau, Tanaka’s responsibilities include oversight of sales activities to help improve processes and garner results in both leisure and meetings, conventions and incentives markets. He will also assist with the agency’s crisis preparedness and management efforts. Prior to joining the bureau, Tanaka was in the catering & convention services department at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Kapolei on O‘ahu.
Anne Kehmeier was recently named team leader for sales and operations at the German tour operator For Family Reisen, overseeing the entire sales process in close coordination with company management and optimizing all customer contact points. Kehmeier’s involvement in tourism while studying international tourism management with a focus on sustainability. She spent a semester abroad in Dublin and completed a semester internship in Panama, where she discovered her passion for Latin America. She gained further experience in tourism while working for more than five years at Papaya Tours, a Cologne-based German tour operator that organizes individual Central and South American trips.
In the UK, Tim Winkworth has been named product and operations director at Jon Baines Tours Ltd. Previously, he had served as product director for Specialist Journeys. He also spent more than five years as family product development manager for Intrepid Travel.
Rodrigo Fritsche has been named as the new commercial director for Flytour Gapnet, the third largest tour operator/travel agency in Brazil. Fritsche, who had been with the company for seven years as a southern regional manager, was promoted to the position.
James Coughlan has been appointed as the new director of sales and business development at Abercrombie & Kent. Coughlan will join the luxury tour operator in November. He replaces Simon Lynch, who left the business in June to join Scott Dunn. Coughlan will be responsible for sales, operations and business development, working across the company’s Cheltenham and London offices. While joining A&K from the telecoms industry, Coughlan has a long history of working in the travel sector, most recently at Holiday Malta, which he left in 2016 after a management reshuffle. His travel career includes six years at Thomas Cook where he led the company’s retail team in the north of England, and senior positions at a number of travel companies including Holiday Malta Company & Flexi Vacations; Affinion International and Cendant Vacation Rental Group.
Wendy Ziesel has been named destination manager, USA, at Musement, the online platform for activities, tours, museums and entertainment events. She makes the move to her new employer from Circle Line-New York Cruises, where she spent four years and was a senior tour and travel sales manager. Her résumé also includes a tenure at the Heartland Brewery Group where she was also tour and travel sales manager.
Brian Blanchard has been named deputy director of tourism for Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism. He succeeds Bonnie King, who retired from the Office of Tourism on June 30 after 32 years. Blanchard, who has more than 20 years of experience in the tourism and hospitality industries, comes to his new job from the Office of Tourism at Port Canaveral, where he was director of recreation and guest experience, and senior director of operations. Previous tenures include 12 years with tourist attractions, including Universal Orlando and Cypress Gardens.
Bedsonline, a part of the Hotelbeds Group, has announced a number of changes for its travel advisor customers, including an expansion of its team across the United States and Canada. Over the course of the last month-and-a-half, the company has made a number of new appointments to its senior team and regional manager roles, including: Bruce McCarson, key account manager in Texas; Rebecca Aiken, key account manager in Minnesota; Ivan Mansanet, key account manager in British Columbia; and Michael Sanchez, key account manager in Arizona. Additionally, joining the team are Brenda Pais, key account manager in Ontario; and Andrea Monroe and Colter Fleming, key account managers in Southern California.