Industry Celebrates Valerie Wilson Travel's 35th Anniversary

by Doug Gollan
Industry Celebrates Valerie Wilson Travel's 35th Anniversary

The Valerie Wilson Travel team. Photo: Facebook.

Hundreds of top travel industry executives from as far away as Europe and Asia partied late into the night at Cipriani 42nd Street to pay homage to Valerie Wilson Travel as it celebrated its 35th anniversary led by its founder and her two daughters who now serve as co-presidents.

A native of Iowa and former fashion executive, Valerie Wilson caught the travel bug while living in London in the late 1970s and after returning to New York opened her agency in 1981 with its first location in the former Pan Am Building, across the street from last night's gala. She told the gathering she imagined at best she would be a boutique agency with about $5 million in sales. Today Valerie Wilson Travel includes 315 advisors and is ranked in the top 50 travel agencies in the U.S. with just under $400 million in annual sales. It has offices nationwide, including California, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Illinois.

Known for its signature peach colored ticket jackets and elegant cursive script logo, one executive said, "Cartier has red, Tiffany has blue, Hermes as orange and Valerie is peach. Everyone knows it. She understood branding before anyone else." Despite the chilly weather, the large ballroom was decorated with peach trees and filled to capacity.

Facebook was lit up with messages to Wilson and her daughters Jennifer Wilson-Buttigieg and Kimberly Wilson Wetty. Ernesto Floro, Sales and Marketing Director for The Pierre, a Taj Hotel wrote, "Thank you, Valerie Wilson Travel for a fabulous evening." Matthew Upchurch, CEO of Virtuoso, posted, "Val knows how to party and party like a rockstar!" Greg Tepper of Exeter International said, "It was an incredible honor to attend your 35th anniversary, and I will never forget it." Brian Honan, sales director at Trump SoHo posted, "What becomes a legend most? Mind, spirit, determination, vision and most of all, heart. Cheers to you Valerie Wilson to taking us all on the journey."

Helen Smith, marketing chief for The Dorchester Collection flew in for London for the gala and was set to return to London this morning while Silversea Cruises, Crystal Luxury and Windstar bosses Mark Conroy, Edie Rodriguez and John Delaney braved the freezing temperatures and holiday traffic jams to pay homage to Wilson and her team. Four Seasons president Christian Clerc also flew in.

Hotel executives Helen McCabe-Young, who recently left One&Only and Tom Civitano, ex-Jumeirah both came to join the celebration. Others spotted in the crowd included luxury hotel rep JoAnn Kurtz-Ahlers, Hilton luxury sales director Sam Chamberlain, Hyatt's Richard Lebowitz and Tristan Dowell, Chris Walker of The Leading Hotels of the World, Pierre GM Francois-Olivier Luiggi, Baccarat GM Herman Elger, Mandarin Oriental New York boss Susanne Hatje, Ritz-Carlton's Alexis Romer, Virtuoso's Albert Herrera and Misty Ewing and Delta VP Chuck Imhoff. Also, there were ASTA SVP Eben Peck and Time, Inc. lifestyle editorial director Nathan Lump.

Even those not in town got in on the action. Lisa Pile, Australia-based vp-sales for Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, posted to Facebook, "We LOVE you Valerie Wilson!" Anne Morgan Scully, president of McCabe World Travel added her wishes, posting, "Congratulations on 35 years Valerie." Rival agency CEO Michael Holtz posted a photo of peaches, adding a caption, "The SmartFlyer family wishes Valerie Wilson, her daughters and entire team a peachy day on a wonderful milestone!! Congrats."

To top the evening off, some $35,000 was raised for various charities, including the American Heart Association, Dream Foundation, Swim Across America and Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy.

  10
  1
Tip of the Day
Daily Top List

Most Useful Twitter Accounts for Travel Agents

1. AskTSA

2. FlightRadar24

3. Department of State

4. CLIA Global

5. ASTA

Source: TMR

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=01926fc8-d3f7-e711-80eb-782bcb667b27

Look to Luxury Land Clients When Filling Luxury Cruise Ships

Capturing the ‘not-so-new’ luxury travelers and converting them to luxury cruise passengers can lead to big business for travel agents.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Bomb Cyclone Delay Raises Issue of Clients' Rights When Service Goes Awry
Bomb Cyclone Delay Raises Issue of Clients' Rights When Service Goes Awry

An airport incident between passengers and a Canadian airline in Boston during the “bomb cyclone” highlights the tensions that can rise when there are significant delays.

Multi-Trip Travel Insurance Could Cost Less, But Has Low Awareness
Multi-Trip Travel Insurance Could Cost Less, But Has Low Awareness

This lesser known option has yet to catch on because most travelers aren’t aware of it, and agents are more inclined to sell single-trip policies.

What Do the New Facebook Rules Mean for Travel Agents?
What Do the New Facebook Rules Mean for Travel Agents?

Changes announced this week by Facebook’s CEO may lead to less value for businesses trying to reach customers through unpaid content on the social media platform.

Lonely Planet’s Top Places for Solo Travel Includes Adventure and Foodie Destinations
Lonely Planet’s Top Places for Solo Travel Includes Adventure and Foodie Destinations

The travel guide’s list includes 10 cities from around the world that will convince even the most uneasy single traveler that it’s time to start exploring solo.

Headquarters Happenings: After a Successful 2017, Travel Leaders Looks to a Stronger 2018
Headquarters Happenings: After a Successful 2017, Travel Leaders Looks to a Stronger 2018

Synergies from 2017 merger, enhanced travel agent tools, and expanded luxury offerings propel the company into the new year.

Travel Agents Sail into Wave Season
Travel Agents Sail into Wave Season

Travel professionals are taking new approaches to their customers, their marketing and their business processes in 2018.

News Briefs
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Scenic Cruises