**This story was updated on June 25th at 6:43 p.m.***
Karisma Hotels and Resorts has let go of their Canadian sales team, PAX has learned.
Up until Tuesday (June 25th), the brand had two business development positions covering the Canadian market – one for Quebec and the Maritimes and one for Western Canada.
Karisma once had a business development manager for Ontario, Alex Portman. However, Portman left the company last February and that role has remained empty ever since.
Mireille Moutou, who was Karisma’s director of business development for Quebec and the Maritimes, confirmed the news with PAX today in a telephone interview.
“This happens. It’s always a bit sad,” said Moutou, who has worked for other companies such as Air Canada Vacations, Thomas Cook and Transat since the early ’90s.
Moutou said she received the news via telephone call Tuesday morning.
“I imagine that this was a hard thing for them,” she said. “These are hard decisions to make.”
To that end, Moutou said the Karisma team was very supportive, citing that “if there was anything they could do for us, they would do it.”
“It’s the end of Karisma in Canada...for now,” Moutou said. “You never know. They could come back.”
Moutou couldn’t say what led to the Karisma layoffs. However, she said the Canadian market – sales in Mexico, in particular – has been a recent struggle.
“A lot has happened [in Mexico] in the past two years,” Moutou said, citing various examples, from U.S. President Donald Trump’s volatile relationship with the country to issues related to sargassum (seaweed).
Karisma currently operates 10 resorts in Mexico.
Moutou said Karisma “really put an emphasis on Canada” in 2018 and they invested a bulk of their budget in the Canadian market at that time. However, that changed this year, she said, when more of that budget went towards the U.S. market instead.
The Mexico Tourism Board also shuttered its Canadian offices this year. However, Moutou said the tourism boards' closure in Canada is unrelated to the layoffs.
“I was so proud to be dedicated to Karisma, which is an amazing hotel chain,” Moutou told PAX. “Whatever the reason is, I ask that travel agents still think of Karisma because it’s a great hotel chain.”
“I always say that when a door closes, another one will open,” she said.
"Difficult decisions had to be made"
Debbie Girard also received a call today from Karisma announcing that she was being let go. Girard was Karisma’s regional sales and marketing manager for Western Canada.
“It’s been a great ride,” Girard told PAX over the phone from her home in Vancouver, BC. “Difficult decisions had to be made. I respect their decisions and I wish them nothing but the best.”
Girard had been working with the Karisma brand for just over two years.
“We’ve seen some peaks and valleys,” she said. “Overall, numbers were fairly good.”
Girard emphasized that “Karisma is a great brand.”
“Clients love the brand, agents love the brand. I hope that they will continue to support it with the new support staff in place,” she said, noting that the Canadian sales team’s email accounts are being redirected to Karisma’s inside sales team.
Girard told PAX that she appreciates the phone calls and emails she’s received since the word got out.
“I’m OK,” Girard told PAX. “In the 38 years of my career, I haven’t had down time. I’m hoping to take some time and look at what opportunities are out there.”
An update from Karisma
Kelly Poling, chief executive officer for Premier Worldwide Marketing, the exclusive worldwide representatives for Karisma Hotels & Resorts, confirmed with PAX in an email Tuesday night that a team will continue to oversee the Canadian market.
"Karisma Hotels & Resorts remains deeply committed to our valued travel partners and the travel agent community in Canada," Poling said in a statement. "While there have been a few recent changes, we are very proud of our team focused on Canada, which includes Senior Director of Retail Sales North America Marilyn Cairo; Director of Sales Gabriel Rodriguez, who has been at the helm in Canada for more than three years, based in Toronto; and Sales Executive Maddie Blouin, who is on the ground in Mexico and serves as a support for Canadian agents."
Poling confirmed that its contract with Quadra Innovations Group, which represents Karisma Hotels & Resorts in Canada, "is in place."
"Canada has been an increasing area of strategic focus for Karisma as illustrated by the strong year-over-year growth and we expect it will only accelerate in the future," Poling stated. "Karisma is honoured to have 300+ Gourmet Inclusive Vacation Consultants in Canada and we will continue to work tirelessly to support and invest in these agents so they receive the full benefits of the GIVC program along with perks exclusive to Canadian agents such as Karisma Canada Cash. We are grateful for the strong relationships built over the past decade and look forward to furthering our partnerships with agents and operators in Canada over the coming months and years as Karisma introduces exciting new properties and initiatives."
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