TORONTO — Once people get into the travel industry, few want to leave – but that’s not to say there isn’t room for a little upward mobility here and there, and even a surprising departure or two.
Here’s a roundup of high-profile executive shakeups and exits we were following in 2018…
- The year got off to a surprising start with the January announcement that Vice-President, National Sales and Commercial Denise Heffron was leaving Transat after a milestone 25 years of service, Transat’s Denise Heffron, Vice-President, National Sales and Commercial, has announced her retirement from the company. Her final day at the company was March 2.
- Also in January, TPI took a major step to strengthen its position with the travel trade with the appointment of Zeina Gedeon as CEO. Gedeon headed up Air Canada Vacations as President and CEO. She left ACV in 2014. From September 2015 to June 2016 she was CEO of TravelBrands.
- Travel industry veteran Tim Morgan joined the Virtuoso team in summer 2018, with a new role as Director of Business Strategy for Canada that sees him assisting Virtuoso in developing its luxury leisure travel market in Canada. Morgan was well-known from his 13 years as vice president at TPI, a Virtuoso member agency.
- After much speculation came official word in August that the Board of Directors of Air France-KLM had announced the appointment of Ben Smith as Air France-KLM’s new CEO. Smith played a major role at Air Canada over the past two decades, including posts as Air Canada’s President Airlines and Chief Operating Officer.
- Lyell Farquharson departed WestJet in September. The search for a new Vice-President, Sales was on.
- Dean Dacko took over as the new Regional President of the UNIGLOBE Eastern Canada Region in October. The former Air Canada Vacations executive also worked at Carlson Marketing, Malaysia Airlines and NewLeaf Travel Company.
- Darshika Jones took over from Leigh Barnes to head up The Intrepid Group’s North American division. The October announcement followed up from an earlier update that saw Barnes move into the newly-created role of Chief Purpose Officer.
- Contiki named James Marchant as its Global CEO with responsibility for the youth travel company’s global network of teams across Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Canada, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. Marchant took over from Casper Urhammer, who was Contiki’s Global CEO from 2014 to 2018.
- In November Merit Travel Group announced it was transitioning its leadership team. President Jason Merrithew left the company Nov. 15 and Dirk Baerts, Chief Operating Officer, took over leadership of Merit Travel.
- Kelly Craighead was recently named CLIA’s new President and CEO. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, Craighead’s new role will involve directing CLIA’s global team to unify, represent, advocate and promote the common interests of the organization’s members and the global cruise industry.
- VISIT FLORIDA’s Ken Lawson is leaving his role as CEO in January to take over the reins of the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). The news came to light in mid-December and VISIT FLORIDA said it is just beginning a search for Lawson’s successor. An interim CEO has yet to be named.