Last updated: 01:15 PM ET, Fri July 22 2016

Brian Stack: Passing the Baton at CIE

Tour Operator | CIE Tours International | David Cogswell | July 22, 2016

Brian Stack: Passing the Baton at CIE

Photo courtesy of CIE Tours

Brian Stack retired as CEO of CIE Tours at the beginning of April after 26 years of leading the company’s growth from a tiny tour operation owned by an Irish transportation company to one of the largest tour operators taking Americans to Ireland.

Stack is followed at CIE by Elizabeth Crabill, the company’s new CEO. Stack has moved on to the role of president emeritus, still working in an advisory capacity for the company.

Crabill had high praise for the man whose shoes she is filling.

“CIE Tours has not only been really successful at growing the volume of revenues, it’s also been able to be a leader in Irish and now Britain specialist travel,” said Crabill. “Within the trade, CIE Tours and Ireland are very much synonymous and the business has grown tremendously.”

READ MORE: CIE Tours International Already Set For 2017

Crabill attributes the success of the company to Stack and the team he built during his tenure at CIE.

“I think it’s a real testament to long-term stick-to-itiveness,” said Crabill. “I think they have created something the trade sees as very special. I am delighted to take over that, and to have Brian continue to be part of our organization’s heritage and foundation. It’s a lucky and desirable situation to be in, to have the best of both worlds: a company that has grown so much, to see that it has grown because of the people and also to have the leader continue to be dedicated to keeping that legacy going. It’s a great spot for me to step into.”

As president emeritus, Stack defines his new role as “to assist in any way I can.”

Stack meets with Crabill on a regular basis and the two stay in touch via text and email.

“After 26 years, as you can imagine, Brian is not going to get very far from being tuned into thinking about things that CIE Tours can do as opportunities,” said Crabill. “So he’s very happy to be in that role of looking for ways he can help continue to grow that brand.”

Stack is also reviving his own consulting company.

“I had a company before I joined CIE called Stack International,” said Stack. “The plan is to revive that company and represent some companies in Britain or Ireland that can use representation in the U.S.”

Stack is confident he is leaving the company in good hands.

“Elizabeth is working out very well,” he said. “She’s going to build up the team, to move it from the level I left it at and consolidate that. She’s going to strengthen the management team, bring in some new people. I continue to be a consultant.”

As a native of Ireland who has spent most of his career in the travel industry, Stack is watching political/economic events closely, with special concern over the recent Brexit referendum in which the UK voted to leave the European Union.

“It was probably one of the worst decisions anybody could ever make,” said Stack. “Do you know what the number one item being searched in Britain on Google after the election? It was ‘What is the EU?’ Having voted to leave it seems clear that most of the population had no clue what it was.”

Stack does not expect much of the change from leaving the EU to happen for a couple of years.

“There could be extra passports required,” said Stack. “UK kids will not automatically be able to work anywhere in EU, as they can now. In terms of travel, Ireland and the UK will continue to be very strong destinations because so many things have happened in the rest of Europe, particularly France. A lot of people are wary of France. Of course you would have to be very unlucky to go somewhere where someone plants a bomb. But it could be anywhere.”

Regardless of statistical truths, perceptions are likely to hurt France’s tourism for a while, Stack said.

“For most Americans in the Midwest their trip to Europe will be the highlight of their year, in some cases for their whole lives,” he said. “If they are going to go off to Europe, there is a good chance they are going to be very careful. The schools don’t teach geography the way they used to. When some people hear of an incident in Nice they’ll just say they are not going to France. A lot of people don’t know the details.”

The propensity of violent events lately will cause many potential travelers to stay home, Stack predicts.

“I think that people will be wary,” he said. “A lot of people living in places like Des Moines don’t intend to leave. If they do, they’ll go where they feel sure they are not going to be injured. It’s very tough for people in travel business. The Orlando thing was so appalling, so soon followed by Nice. Only last year my wife and I were walking along Nice saying we ought to come back. Then some clown takes a truck onto the beach.

READ MORE: CIE Tours' Elizabeth Crabill: Brexit and Beyond

“Life as we knew it is changed,” said Stack. “I was saying to my wife, ‘We’ve had the best of times. We’ve done a lot of travel. We’ve been through a time when we didn’t have security at airports. We went all over the world. Now it’s stressful.

“We’ve had a great life. We went traveling everywhere."

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