As a founding team member and former President & CEO of Expedia, Erik Blachford is an extremely successful leader in the online travel business. Mr. Blachford brought his extensive expertise in online travel marketing and sales to a volunteer assignment in Montenegro with the Montenegro Competitiveness Project (MCP) for VEGA Member IESC, funded by USAID and implemented by Booz Allen Hamilton. MCP aimed to increase prosperity and livelihoods for the Montenegrin people, by providing technical assistance in the tourism, agribusiness and wood industries. Mr. Blachford partnered with Montenegrin tourism companies and advised them on web-based marketing strategies to help grow the tourism sector, as the country was recovering from nearly a decade of war.
Mr. Blachford rich background in business and online marketing was incredibly useful for his trainings for local partners in Montenegro. After earning his B.A. from Princeton University and his M.B.A from Columbia University, he began his career in 1995 as a founding team member of Expedia. He ran Expedia’s marketing for a number of years as Senior Vice President before becoming Expedia’s President & CEO. Following his tenure at Expedia, Mr. Blachford went on to serve in a number of other executive positions, as the President & CEO at IAC Travel, CEO of TerraPass, Inc., and CEO of Butterfield & Robinson.
In 2005, during the time of Mr. Blachford’s volunteer assignment, companies in Montenegro were struggling to utilize online marketing without the proper knowledge or infrastructure, as they had been isolated from trends in the tourism industry over much of the 1990’s due to the war. Mr. Blachford trained more than 200 people from local tourism organizations in three seminars on the specifics of website structure and navigation, business model challenges, online marketing and implementing standard technologies used by the tourism sector globally. He held one-on-one consultations to give people and companies advice tailored to their individual challenges. Mr. Blachford also shared materials on tourism marketing strategies in for the burgeoning tourism industry to utilize long after his assignment.
Mr. Blachford made significant contributions to making MCP’s work on the tourism sector the most successful component of the project. In addition to working directly with hoteliers, travel agents and others in tourism and hospitality, he also provided MCP with critical guidance on how to make their efforts succeed. MCP’s successful approach to bolstering Montenegro’s tourism was achieved by way of strengthening the Montenegro Tourism Organization’s capacity, developing the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE market) and training many local tourism organizations.
Source: USAID and Booz Allen Montenegro Competitiveness Project (MCP) Report