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Cruise industry mourns Navin Sawhney

Navin Sawhney, 1954 - 2024
Navin Sawhney, a strategist and marketing and revenue expert who most recently led Ponant's growth in the Americas as CEO and was known as a gentle soul, died Thursday.

This followed a six-year battle with cancer. He was 69. 

Sawhney died peacefully, surrounded by familly, in Trumbull, Connecticut, his home.

Speaking for many, Ted Sykes, CEO, Certares Homecoming, called Sawhney a good friend, well-liked across the industry. 

Visionary, mentor, inspiring leader

'All of us at Ponant and Paul Gauguin Cruises are deeply saddened,' Ponant CEO Hervé Gastinel said. '...  He was a true visionary, a mentor for his teams and a beloved member of the global travel industry community, enormously respected by all who knew and worked with him. Above all, he was an inspiring leader and a true friend.'

Sawhney's more than 40-year travel industry career began as a marketing planning manager for Holland America Line, and he rose to become SVP marketing at Cunard Line, SVP sales and marketing at Tauck and chief operating officer, then CEO at Ponant, Americas in New York. He recently transitioned to strategic advisor.

During a decade with Ponant, 'his immense industry knowledge and business savvy masterminded a turning point in the development of our company, propelling us to become a prestigious brand that is recognized and respected in the American market,' Gastinel said.

Man of integrity and character

'We were devastated to hear the news of Navin’s passing,' Tauck CEO Dan Mahar said. 'Navin and Tauck had a long and close relationship, and we benefited from his work with us as a consultant, as a valued employee and, more recently, as a trusted partner at Ponant. He was a true gentleman — a man of integrity and character. He will be dearly missed by his many friends at Tauck.'

Sawhney also ran his own consultancy focused on strategic planning, brand development, channel and digital marketing and growth through alliances. Veteran senior cruise executive Larry Pimentel, who tapped Sawhney for various projects, called him a 'gentle soul who was focused on “we” and “us” rather than me.

'I loved his authentic humanity,' Pimentel said. 'He was a gentle giant and had a unique way of connecting with those he engaged. His work at Ponant was stellar.'

Born in New Delhi, India

According to an obituary, Sawhney was born in New Delhi, India, and came to the US in 1978 to attend the University of Bridgeport’s MBA program as an exchange student after completing his three-year LL.B. in corporate law at Delhi University. He lived in Connecticut before moving to New York, and became a US citizen in 1989.

Meanwhile, in 1980, Sawhney joined Holland America Line — then based in New York — as marketing planning manager. That is where he met Suzanne, his wife of 40 years.

From 1984 to 1997, he led global marketing for Cunard, encompassing its decade-long corporate acquisition strategy.

Sawhney was then recruited by a private equity firm to run the international division of a roll-up platform for a large cosmetic manufacturer and went on to work in consumer marketing and new channel development before joining Tauck, the Connecticut-based, family-owned global tour operator, in 2006. He directed marketing strategy and global sales for six years before setting up Sawhney Consulting. He joined Ponant in 2014.

'Navin will forever be remembered for his kindness, empathy and support of his teams,' Gastinel said. 'The company, our employees and the partners he worked with will miss him greatly.'

May 31 viewing

Besides wife Suzanne, Sawhney is survived by daughters Tara and Hannah, two siblings, a granddaughter and several nieces and nephews, and several grandnephews and a grandniece.

A viewing will be held May 31 at Cyril F. Mullins Funeral Home, 399 White Plains Road., Trumbull, Connecticut, with a private funeral scheduled for June 1.