With the recent appointment of Jennie Ho as president of Delta Vacations, a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, we thought it fitting to have a chat with the former Delta Air Lines managing director – specialty and Canada sales, to find out more about her transition and future initiatives.
Melissa Bryant (MB): How has the transition been for you so far?
Jennie Ho (JH): I came from Delta, and this is after 19 years at Delta in a variety of roles in our revenue management, in our Sky Miles marketing group, and in our alliances in global sales organization, so I’ve had a front row seat from my last position in terms of working with the tour operator channel in general. It’s a very important channel for Delta Air Lines overall, and in particular Delta Vacations, because this is our fully owned subsidiary and in terms of our tour operator strategy it is one of one. So I would say I’ve had the benefit of not only knowing the leaders who have been at Delta Vacations but really [having] a close business working partnership in terms of the strategy and the areas of focus.
MB: What are some of the major initiatives you plan to take on with this role?
JH: As I make this transition into this wonderful opportunity, my first order of priority is to ensure that we as a team manage through this transition as seamlessly as possible. I am transitioning into the president’s role and Tina Iglio, who is our senior v.p. of all of our marketing functions, got promoted within Delta and is know taking a role in our global sales support organization. So we’re also backfilling her position.
All this to say that the company is managing through a pretty large leadership transition at this point in time, so my first priority is to make sure that I am a very visible leader not only to our employees but also our B2B and B2C customers, [while at the same time] focusing on ensuring that we continue to deliver the strong revenue and profitability results that Delta Vacations has been delivering. As soon as my announcement came out I went up to Minneapolis to visit our team members. I’ve already had the opportunity to meet with all of our sales team members who are spread out across all of the United States, and of course our team members here in Atlanta. And this weekend I’m heading out to Los Cabos for our top agency partner recognition event…It is no doubt a transition, but the commitment hasn’t changed.
MB: At Delta Vacations University last September, Elizabeth Moriarty, Delta Vacations’ v.p. of product development, mentioned how the company is enhancing its romance offerings by focusing outside the traditional Latin America area, Mexico and the Caribbean market. What has the reception been like for the romance program in Europe thus far?
JH: There is no doubt that this romance program is an important one. We’re really looking for ways to differentiate Delta Vacations in terms of the partners that we select, that we partner with, that we work with to offer special experiences. There perhaps is nothing more important in one’s lifetime as their wedding and their honeymoon. So it’s a huge responsibility to take on this line of focus.
In terms of the expansion, at the end of last year, we officially expanded our romance package offerings to Europe and we’re seeing early results. The top destination, to no one’s surprise, is Paris, then Rome and Venice. And we can see that not only is this a program that our customers care about…but also the average price for a package is stronger than what we know from these markets.
MB: Do you think you will further expand your Romance program into the U.S.?
JH: Yeah, absolutely. Hawaii is also a part of the offering in terms of being in the romance program. We can probably all agree that Hawaii is the most romantic U.S. destination. We keep and eye on customer preferences and if the demand is there we would go and create programs that will resonate with what our consumers are interested in.
MB: Delta Vacations has always taken care of its travel agents partners in the past. How do you plan to continue and strengthen that relationship?
JH: That is a very important area of focus and it starts with me getting to know them; and this is the purpose of me spending four to five days in Los Cabos to meet with our top agency partners and to really hear their feedback. It’s to be visible…to establish the relationship. It’s a relationship that I know is valueable to Delta Vacations and Delta Air Lines.
In terms of what we can do is to really anticipate and understand how our partners’ business process works, how can we help the transaction to be easier for them, what can we do to make sure that the direct consumers have a good experience and when things don’t go quite right they know Delta Vacations and Delta Air Lines has their back. It is focusing on investment on the front end—the tools, the process; and how to be easier to do business with with our agency partners, then being equally invested in protecting and being responsible for that end consumer’s experience.
MB: Is there any upcoming news/programs/offerings that travel agents should be aware of?
JH: The trend in general is this term” “authentic experience.” Vacation time is special and it is our most important resource that any one of us has, especially to be able to spend it with your family, and loved ones. We take that responsibility very seriously. Our focus is on providing authentic local experiences and making it easier for the customers to partake in these authentic experiences.
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