Elizabeth Moran, a travel advisor with VIP Vacations Inc, attended the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave at the end of July in Cancun. Here's her first-hand report from the event.
A familiar thought came to the forefront of her mind: “Do other ladies feel as though their voices aren’t being heard?” After being in business for 25 years, she had asked that question over and over. “Do other female agency owners find it hard to negotiate vendor contracts? Are other women in the travel industry feeling frustrated that they don’t have a seat at the table (proverbial or otherwise)?”
After years of wondering, VIP Vacations president, Jennifer Doncsecz, was done asking questions and decided to do something about it.
On July 25, 2019, the first Female Leaders in Travel Conclave kicked off at Le Blanc Cancun in Mexico. This conclave, comprising 23 travel advisors holding leadership positions at 18 travel agencies throughout the United States and Canada (who have a combined total of more than $600 million in annual sales), met for four days to share ideas and experiences, tackle issues, gain skills, seek advice, and ultimately, become a powerful voice in the travel industry.
Each day began with physical activity – meditation, yoga, or walking on the beach. It was the perfect way to stay the day. As women, we have the tendency to bottle all of our stresses up and it’s important to find healthy ways to relieve those stresses. Starting off the day with a clear, relaxed mind ultimately leads to a more productive, thoughtful day.
With the help of Vanessa McGovern (co-founder and CEO of Gifted Travel Network), and with discussions led by Jennifer Cochrane (co-founder and COO of Gifted Travel Network), the conclave covered topics such as negotiation practices, leadership skills and practicing mindfulness both at work and in our personal lives. The women also each shared their personal trials and experiences that they feel ultimately contributed to their success.
“Women are the heartbeat of this industry and yet only 14 percent of the leaders in c-suite positions at major travel brands are females. The ladies that gathered at the conclave want to empower other women and help other females rise in this industry,” said Doncsecz
During their stay in Cancun, the Conclave was honored to be hosted for two unforgettable dinners at Hyatt Ziva Cancun by Howard Tanenbaum (SVP of sales, Playa Hotels & Resorts), Alex Andrade (VP of operations Mexico, Playa Hotels & Resorts), and Bethany Ward (director of online business, Playa Hotels & Resorts), and at Secrets the Vine Cancun by Maru Suarez (regional commercial director, Mexico Caribbean North, AMResorts), Rosalinda Rodriguez (senior manager, U.S. business development, AMSTAR), Armando Canela (director of sales, Secrets the Vine) and Yamina Bermudez (head of weddings, Secrets the Vine).
“I’m so grateful to Le Blanc, Hyatt Ziva Cancun and Secrets the Vine, for their participation in this conclave and for how they truly rolled out the red-carpet for these female leaders,” said Doncsecz.
The highlight of the weekend was an interview between Jennifer Doncsecz and Dolores López Lira (general director at Grupo Lomas), where Lira described the difficulties her and her co-founder husband, José Martínez Alday, have faced over the past 38 years of running Lomas Travel; including the gender discrimination she encountered amd overcame to become one of the top DMC companies in the travel industry. At the end of the interview, Doncsecz presented Lira with the first Luminary Award for her exceptional leadership and for overcoming obstacles facing female leaders during her nearly four decades in the travel industry.
“Having a role model that has struggled with huge blows but continued to rise gives hope and Dolores is an incredible role model,” Doncsecz said.
The conclave was brought to a close on July 28 at a special dinner hosted by Le Blanc Cancun where the women – bonded by the events of the weekend – shared stories, ideas for the future, and words of encouragement.
As the great poet Taylor Swift sang in her hit song, "You Need To Calm Down," “We see you over there on the internet / Comparing all the girls who are killing it / But we figured you out / We all know now we all got crowns.” It is clear that women in the travel industry face issues and challenges unique to their gender, but the hope of the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave is that women can ban together to help each other grow as leaders and gain a stronger presence in the top positions in the travel industry.