There’s a new woman in charge at Collette. Jaclyn Leibl-Cote has been promoted as the new president for the tour operator. In her new role, Leibl-Cote will work alongside her father, Dan Sullivan, Jr., CEO of Collette, over the next several years. Leibl-Cote will then become his successor and the third generation of the Sullivan family to become CEO of Collette.
As a female president, Leibl-Cote, will be one of the few women in a senior leadership role in the travel industry. Her involvement in the family business began in 2005 when she worked in the mail room as a teenager. Since those early days, Leibl-Cote has held many roles within the company including sales, as well as working as a tour manager and a tour designer. Most recently Leibl-Cote served as the executive v.p. of product and tour management for Collette.
Recommend reached out to Leibl-Cote to find out what this new role means for her, what changes will be coming to Collette, and what being one of the few women in a leadership position in the travel industry means to her.
Michelle Marie Arean (MMA): Being that Collette is a family-run business, and will remain that way with your succession, how do you see that as influencing the company?
Jaclyn Leibi-Cote (JLC): As a third generation, family run business, we are able to uphold our family values and maintain the long-term vision of the business. We are passionate about Collette because it’s a life we have built together for our entire life.
MMA: How does Collette being a family-run business make it unique or different when compared to other international tour operators?
As a family-run business, we prioritize long-term sustainability and growth over short-term gains. When we develop our tours, we do this with the guest at the center of everything we do. We pride ourselves on listening to our guests and partners because we truly believe that their feedback is invaluable to us. Most importantly, we do not run on a hierarchy internally.
MMA: Since you are one of the few women in a leadership role within the travel industry, how do you think that would impact how you do business and run Collette?
JLC: I’m proud to be a female in the travel industry, which many consider to be dominated by males. I don’t really consider gender to be something I think about when it comes to surrounding myself with a strong team. The most important criteria is to hire those who are the best in all areas. The team also needs to understand the vision that we see, and specifically where we want this company to head in the future.
MMA: Do you think that as a woman, the impact you could have on Collette differs from that of your father?
JLC: I think my father and I think in a very similar way, but with different approaches. When my dad began working at Collette, the business was small and growing. He made the business international, which led to tremendous growth. The impact I will have depends on how we define impact. If it means revenue and passenger growth, we want to impact that positively. If we define impact by our culture, vision and future opportunities, I do think I will have a different influence than my father, but in a positive way. As a woman coming into the role, I come in at a very different place than my dad, so my approach will be different from what I am taking over based on what my grandfather and my father built.
MMA: We know you worked your way up the corporate ladder for Collette, starting in the mail room, working in sales, and now president, with CEO in the near future. What would you say has been your favorite role thus far?
JLC: Product development will always have a special place in my heart. It is what shapes the other departments, including marketing and sales. Product development allows the company to stay innovative and ahead of the trends.
MMA: What lesson from your father do you plan to keep with you as you take over his position?
JLC: I have learned a lot from my father, but some more important lessons have stood out to me. You have to stay involved in the details of the business. You have to be on the road learning as often as you can. Learning helps improve sales, product and even just networking. Lastly, building a strong, diverse board of advisors is key.
MMA: What changes do you plan to bring to Collette under your leadership?
JLC: Separate from what I have been working on, I don’t have any immediate changes in the new future. As a company, we are excited to continue the expansion of our Explorations small touring segment.
MMA: Are you implementing anything new right away with your role as president of the company?
JLC: I have not yet implemented anything new, but I have been planting new ideas throughout my role as a leader and family leader in the business. I think I need more time before we start seeing any changes take place.
MMA: What are your plans for the U.S. market?
JLC: For the U.S. market, we are relaunching our Explorations tour offering, developing learning modules for agents, creating new incentives and travel discounts for agents and continuing with our FAM tours.
MMA: What role do travel agents play for you? Is there any way you plan to change or expand that role?
JLC: Our business is driven by the dedication of agents and partners, which is why we put such an emphasis on protecting the agents commission because of their hard work!
For more information on Collette, visit Collette.com.
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