ETOBICOKE — Frank DeMarinis bid a fond farewell to close industry friends and colleagues yesterday at an intimate gathering at TravelBrands’ head office, just ahead of his final day as President and CEO.
News of DeMarinis’ departure first broke last month, with H.I.S. Japan, which acquired parent company Red Label Vacations Inc. in 2019, confirming that he made the decision to step down from his long-time leadership role at TravelBrands, Red Label Vacations and Merit Travel. His last day of work will be July 21, 2023.
A small group of family and friends, including his children Massimo and Bianca, wished him well at yesterday’s send off, during which DeMarinis officially passed off the baton to new CEO Nathalie Tanious, who currently serves as Chief Operating Officer.
When asked by Travelweek what he would do now with his time, DeMarinis said he would “wait for my granddaughter, Ava, to wake up and take her for a walk.” Spending time with his children and grandchildren, he added, is at the very top of his priority list.
During his farewell speech, DeMarinis reflected on his decades-long career in travel, which first began in 1983 when he and his brothers, Joe and Enzo, started Bel Air Travel. In 2001, Bel Air was bought out and brought into the fold of what would later become Thomas Cook Canada. The DeMarinis brothers returned in 2004 with Redtag.ca. Their 2013 acquisition of the North American segment of Thomas Cook Group plc also included their very own Bel Air Travel / belairtravel.com, which later folded into Redtag.ca. In 2019 H.I.S. Japan acquired TravelBrands’ parent company, Red Label Vacations Inc., with DeMarinis staying on as TravelBrands President and CEO.
“The journey started with my two brothers 34 years ago and we were called the Bel Air boys. Imagine these three young Italians coming into the travel industry and taking over!” he said.
“Someone asked me once, ‘What is the secret to your success?’ And I said that my brothers and I always had one thing in common. We believed that every deal that we ever entered into, that we would always make sure to fulfill 110%. If you do that honestly and open-heartedly throughout your career, great things will follow and nice things will start to happen.
“Not only have we been good to the travel industry, but the travel industry has been fantastic to the DeMarinis family. We have so much pride and dignity and respect for all the relationships that we’ve built over the years. And that’s not easy, especially during COVID,” he added.
Noting that the travel industry “took it in the shins” these past three years, DeMarinis said that COVID-19 taught everyone that “we’re all in together.” For TravelBrands, he added, this meant following up with every single employee to ensure that they were doing well and being looked after.
“That was important to me. I told Diana Valler in HR to reach out to every employee to see how they’re doing. The integrity and value that we instilled in them and that they instilled in us were equally important to make sure that we were there for them during the hard times. And those two checkpoints that we did throughout COVID meant a lot to them, which is how we’ve been able to maintain all our employees during that time,” said DeMarinis.
He made a special shoutout to TravelBrands’ entire team, thanking them “for what they contributed, for what they gave, and their hard workmanship that they continue to give us.” DeMarinis also praised the executive team for their support during the pandemic and throughout the four and a half years since the H.I.S Japan transition in 2019.
“The organization has a great balance sheet and it’s stronger than ever. We’ve had a phenomenal year coming out of COVID, so there’s a great runway for the new CEO, Nathalie Tanious,” said DeMarinis.
“I’m leaving the organization in good hands and I know Nathalie shares the same values that I share. This is a transition that I’ve prepared Nathalie for these last four or five years. I said, ‘There’ll be a day when I’m going to be leaving and you will be the person that I’m going to count on to take over the organization.’
“Nathalie, I wish you all the best. I congratulate you on your new post, and I know you’re going to do phenomenal things.”