Ashford’s Distinct Style Is Leading HAL Into The Future

Cruise Week

A year ago this month, 142 yr. old Holland America Line broke away from tradition by naming Orlando Ashford its president.

Ashford himself is well aware that his presence represents change, telling Cruise Week: “There are a few things that are unique, right? I've not grown up in the cruise industry; I grew up in the HR and consulting business. I'm 46 years old. So for the role that I'm in, I'm relatively young. And I’m African-American.”
He sees these as valuable points of difference.
“When I show up, I'm sure people are interested in me for all those reasons. When you put the combination together, it makes for some interest and intrigue. And that's great. It creates a little bit of ‘Hmmm, I wonder what's happening over there? That guy's kinda different. Maybe that brand's a little different than maybe I thought.’ So we leverage it to our advantage.”

Another factor that has shaped Ashford’s management perspective is where he has lived.

He reels off the list: “I've lived in Atlanta, Turkey, Connecticut, Montreal and Toronto. My 
adolescence was northeast, so I guess you could call me an East Coast kid, but I did get 2 degrees from Purdue University in Indiana and I lived in Chicago for 11 years, I'm pretty midwestern, but I've lived internationally.”

The point is, Ashford is a man used to being out of his comfort zone and living in different time zones, which impacts his management style. Insiders tell Cruise Week he’s not autocratic, rather he brings a consensus-building management style to the company.

The different style is an asset when making changes at a company built around traditions. It’s undoubtedly more challenging than at a company such as Royal Caribbean, where the core message over the years is associated with change itself.  At Holland America part of the attraction has been its history and consistency.

It’s early yet, but leaders in the trade are already noticing some changes. Observes Bill Smith, V.P. of Cruise Sales & Performance Management at Virtuoso: “When we had Orlando on for a webinar, I commented, ‘You’re really changing a boring, staid old brand, doing something exciting with it. I really applaud all of that.’”
Smith says it is a necessity for Holland America Line and the trade. “You’ve got a lot of brands out there that are moving forward, so if you don’t you’re going to get lost. I think Orlando is doing a great job to reposition his brand. A lot of that old Holland America guest is dying off. So I wish him luck. We need him to be successful.”

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