Don Jones is the new senior vice president of the West Coast for Travel Leaders Group’s Elite Travel Division, which includes Tzell, Protravel International, Richard Harper Travel, Colletts Travel and Travel Leaders UK.
The newly created position was added on to reflect the growth on on the West Coast, Gail Grimmett, president of the Elite Travel Division told Luxury Travel Advisor.
“We’ve been looking to grow our West Coast operations for the past several months,” said Grimmett, who is based in New York. Other West Coast staff members have been added on as well to accommodate new advisors and agencies that have joined the Protravel and Tzell brands recently. This growth comes from advisors newly entering the business who have held other careers, and those existing agents who were seeking a new home, she said.
Jones joins TLG after serving as the executive vice president of sales and marketing for the travel management company, Cadence, which is based in La Jolla, CA. He joined that company in early 2014, after serving for 25 years at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, where he ultimately held the role of vice president of sales.
“Don’s reputation in this industry is stellar,” Grimmett told Luxury Travel Advisor, who said she had heard from five different people that she should look in to hiring Jones for the position. “He has a great skill set; he knows luxury backwards and forwards; he knows how to work with agencies and he knows how to work with suppliers.”
Separately, Grimmett confirmed that Gina Delgiudice-Gabbard, vice president of leisure for Tzell Travel, based in New York, has resigned and will leave the company in a few weeks.
“Gina has been brilliant in her role; she will be a hard one to replace,” said Grimmett, adding that she has every intention to backfill that position.
In other moves for TLG, the company will soon move in to a new New York office in the Paramount building at 51st Street and Broadway. The 100,000-square-foot space will bring together TLG executives and Tzell and Protravel advisors who are currently in three different midtown locations.
“This is not a move to merge the brands,” Grimmett stressed. “This is a move to give our agents a space they deserve. Our agents are the most awarded in the agency and we want to be sure they are well represented by the space they are in,” said Grimmett.
Grimmett declined to comment on TLG’s recently announced merger Altour, with her representative stating that from a regulatory standpoint the deal has not been finalized. It remains to be seen if Altour will fall under the Elite Travel Division, but if it does, it will be a good fit. With sales of $2.6 billion in 2016, Altour is an independently owned U.S.-based travel management company, serving the luxury and mid-markets globally.
Alexandre Chemla, founder, president and CEO of Altour, will remain in his current leadership role and Ninan Chacko will continue to serve as CEO of TLG. In addition, upon the closing, Chemla will become a shareholder and join the Board of Directors of Travel Leaders Group Holdings.
The combination of TLG and Altour under common ownership will form a single travel agency organization with nearly $24 billion in annual sales.