Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: September/October
By: Victoria Head

Holland America Line's Denella Ri'chard, senior director of Trade Communications and Engagement, has been named one of The Network Journal's 25 Influential Black Women in Business.  Ri'chard was honored by the magazine at a luncheon in New York City earlier this year.  Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line states "anyone who has met Denella can quickly see that she's an incredible leader in our organization and throughout the cruise industry.  Her dynamic personality certainly contributes to her success."

Ri'chard hadn't always known that her path would lead her into the world of travel; however, it was in her last year of College at Southern University HBCU, that her passion for travel was kindled.  At that time, Ri'chard was given the opportunity to study abroad in Harare, Zimbabwe and she enjoyed the experience immensely.  Nelson Mandela had recently been elected as South Africa's new president and Ri'chard would travel from Harare to South Africa often.  It was during her time in Africa that her fondness for travel was truly realized.

After graduating from Southern University with a degree in broadcast journalism, Ri'chard proceeded to Dallas to work for a television production company as production manager.  She produced 'Destinations' a travel show for United Airlines' inflight television viewers.  As producer, she would send the crew and hosts around the world to film in exciting locations; however, she was unable to go. 

"At age 67 my mother obtained her degree from Southern University and to celebrate, I took her on a Norwegian Cruise," states Ri'chard.  My mother is one of my biggest inspirations!  At the age of 36, my father, Daniel J. Richard, died in a car accident one block from our home.  My mother instantly became a single parent with two children.  However, on a secretary's salary, she still managed to send my brother Jamie and I to Catholic school and to college.  Her positive, loving and motivating spirit has always kept me going."  

Soon after returning from their Norwegian Cruise to Greece and the Adriatic Sea, Ri'chard had an encounter with the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line.  She was recruited to work in the cruise industry for Norwegian as their director of business development & director of global product management.  Ri'chard declares, "I was so excited to be working in the cruise industry; the industry is growing so fast and there are always new ships being launched, it's such a thrill!"

Over the following years, Carnival Corporation had been on Ri'chard's radar as they were taking on very impressive new African-American leadership.  Carnival Corporation CEO, Arnold Donald is also from Ri'chard's hometown of New Orleans.  She began networking via Linkedin and reached out to Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line.  Denella was subsequently recruited to Holland America Line, a Carnival Corporation. 

"In my new position, nothing is more satisfying than being able to empower meeting planners and travel agents to get all they can to grow their businesses, explains Ri'chard.  Be they individual businesses, group businesses or meeting planners, my department is responsible for developing deep and broad relationships through innovative technologies, trade communications, marketing, social media and training."

"The greatest part of my job at Holland America Line is the people," exclaims Ri'chard.  "I so love working with the travel agents and meeting planners.  It is so wonderful to be able to teach them new ways to enhance their businesses and then seeing them a year or two down the line and hearing how their businesses are growing into the successful companies they'd only dreamed of.  Meeting planners are so surprised to learn how having their meetings on a cruise ship, vs. in a hotel can be so much cheaper.  Planners can book for 200 or charter the vessel for 2000." 

Ri'chard goes on to explain "this may not be a large annual convention, but perhaps a biannual or regional event; a meeting via cruise is such an exciting change and is very cost effective.  On a ship, audio, video, meeting rooms, coffee, tea and water set-ups are all included in your cruise price.  The staff can work with agents and planners to have their company logo positioned around the ships walls, on cocktail napkins, etc.  The ships charter, meetings and incentive teams are available to help customize the event."  

Ri'chard's most memorable cruise ventures include her trips to Europe including Greece, Venice, Rome, Athens and Croatia.  She also cruised the Panama Canal; next year she plans to go to Asia.  Also at the top of her list is cruising anywhere with Holland America Line when Oprah Winfrey is onboard.  Yes, Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine have united and won the 2017 Seatrade Cruise Award for Marketing Initiative of the Year.  Even for those guests who may not get to book a Holland America Line cruise with Oprah onboard, you should be glad to know that because of their partnership, the award winning, customized experience will still be there for your enjoyment.  The next Oprah Magazine Group cruise is scheduled for October, 2018:

Denelle Ri'chard will be speaking at CruiseWorld, November 7th-9 th in Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Travel Weekly's CruiseWorld is a live event bringing together travel professionals and supplier partners through educational workshops, networking events and a trademark Exhibitor Showcase.

In the meanwhile, interested agents and planners can go to (u) and register their business for no charge to receive access to the site along with a wealth of information to begin growing their business; travel agents and meeting planners interested in selling Holland America Line can also call 1-800-445-3731.