Fifty-five female leaders in travel from across the United States gathered at the Majestic Mirage Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for the fifth annual Female Leaders in Travel Conclave. The event, which took place June 3-7, 2023, was a chance for these women to connect with each other, learn from industry experts, and share their experiences.

The theme of this year's conclave was “Rise,” which stood for “Reimagine, Inspire and Soar.” Throughout the event, attendees were inspired by the speakers, participated in workshops, and networked with other female leaders in the travel industry.

“This year's conclave was truly a special event,” said Jennifer Doncsecz, founder of the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave and president of VIP Vacations Inc. “We had attendees from a range of travel agency models as well as vendors from the airlines, resorts, cruise lines, DMC’s, tour operators and tourism boards. The energy at the event was electric and I’m so proud of what we’ve built over the years. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the women attending this Female Leaders in Travel Conclave.”

The conclave kicked off with a welcome reception on the first night and the theme was a "PJ Party." Attendees enjoyed a fun and festive evening with food, mini-spa goodies, drinks and music. Over the next two days, the conclave included a keynote address from Mary Pat Knight, founder of Leaders Inspired and author of the best-selling book, "The Humanized Leader." Knight shared her insights on how to be a more effective leader, and her message resonated with the audience.

The following days were filled with workshops, panels, group discussions and networking opportunities. Attendees had the chance to learn from industry experts, share their own experiences and build relationships with other female leaders. A highlight of this annual event is presenting the coveted Luminary Award to a deserving female leader who has lit the way for other ladies. This year’s recipient is Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, president and chief experience officer for Collette Vacations. The conclave culminated in a RED Gala on the last formal night of the meetings. The gala was a chance for attendees to celebrate the connections that were made and feel the support as they look ahead to the future.

The fifth annual Female Leaders in Travel Conclave was a success for all involved. Attendees left the event feeling inspired, motivated and connected. They are now better equipped to "rise" to the challenges of the travel industry and beyond.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the event:

  • The importance of networking: Attendees had the chance to network with other female leaders in the travel industry. This was a valuable opportunity to learn from each other, share ideas and build relationships.
  • The need for support: Many attendees expressed their gratitude for the support and guidance they have received at this event as well as from the Travel A.L.L.I.E.S. Society. The conclave provided a platform for attendees to bridge a deeper connection where openness and trust is paramount.
  • The importance of women empowering women: Attendees were provided with an opportunity to share personal stories of overcoming adversity and using their own stories as a source of strength. They also heard a presentation on areas that often hold women back.

Sarah Bonsall, the founder of Latitude 21 Travel, attended this event for the second time and said, “Attending the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave was an unparalleled experience for me. Being among such accomplished women in the industry, a genuine sisterhood was formed. I was completely blown away by the level of trust and support that was offered by everyone. The guest speakers were carefully chosen, and their talks seem to always address the challenges that I need to improve on. I left the event feeling empowered and invincible, with a desire to help my team and business grow. This event has become a fixture in my calendar, and I look forward to attending it every year. Thanks to everyone who made this incredible experience possible.”

Five-time attendee Laure Poffenberger, owner of Travel and Luxury Vacations, commented, “The event fosters bonding with other female leaders and the connections have been invaluable… Every year I walk away feeling that this event is life-changing.”

The Female Leaders in Travel Conclave has grown over the years but has also stayed true to its core belief that women should save a seat for other women as a means of growth, support and mentorship. The conclave provides a much-needed platform for female leaders in the travel industry to learn how to lean into their leadership and strengthen their leadership skills.

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