Better and Brighter: Third Female Leaders in Travel Conclave

Kristi Huss, owner of Travel Savvi Inc., is back from the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave held in mid-June. Here's her report from the event.

As the third Female Leaders in Travel Conclave came to a close at gala night at Secrets The Vine Cancun, ladies dressed in red are gathered on the dance floor singing along to “celebrate good times.”

Despite a very hard year in the travel industry, there was not any grumbling or complaining from this group. Instead, a grateful group of travel industry colleagues—now friends—celebrated the four days they spent together June 9 through 13.

Unlike Any Other Industry Event

While many travel industry events focus on product knowledge and sales, the Female Leaders In Travel agenda is about self-development and bettering leadership skills.

One of the key ingredients of a successful event are connections made among everyone. Careful consideration has been placed on making sure each female leader is seated next to someone that will enhance their leadership style. From the moment the attendees enter the conference room to find their name card in a different daily seating arrangement, it is evident that every aspect of this event is tailored to benefit each person.

Taking an attendee's weakness and matching them with someone that is strong in that area for the bus ride to an evening event is one example of how these thoughtfully considered pairings turns an ordinary dinner event into another opportunity of growth.

It is not about a one-size-fits-all concept: The 50 female leaders and 10 vendor partners in attendance lead and manage teams ranging from under 20 to teams in the hundreds. The ability to take what is learned and implement it in whatever size team or business model a female leader has is one of the great outcomes of this successful event.

Sanya Weston, CEO of Your Premier Travel Service shares why she returned for a second year “My experience at the Female Leaders In Travel Conclave was even more amazing than in 2020. Our mission 'saving her a seat' included elevating each other on every level as we gracefully tackled the challenges in the travel and tourism industry. Together we learned, connected, networked and collaborated, all while having fun. As a 30-year veteran in the industry, I can appreciate this platform and I look forward to continuing our mission.”

Stronger Together

Andrea Williams (Exquisite Vacations), Mona Dean (Horizon Escapes), Vanessa McGovern (Gifted Travel Network) Jennifer Doncsecz (VIP Vacations) and Nadia Henry (Travel With Sparkle).

This year’s addition of more female supplier partners in attendance enhanced the experience with the addition of the supplier leader’s perspective. It is not about everyone being in the same position or size of the agency; it is about being in the mindset to become better leaders in the travel industry.

Jacqueline Marks, executive vice president of trade sales Apple Leisure Group (ALG) Vacations, summed up her first year in attendance: “As we see travel come roaring back, so has my travel schedule for industry events. I have loved being back in person with travel advisors and especially found my time at the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave to be inspiring. To have 50 incredibly smart and successful women come together to support each other, learn together and drive towards a better future is exactly how we strengthen our industry. It is unique and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of this event.”

Each nightly event was an opportunity to experience a different resort. John Long, VP sales and business development at Iberostar Hotel and Resorts, was a gracious host at beautiful poolside event at Iberostar Grand ParaisoHyatt Zilara dazzled us at dinner with an "all that glitters is gold" event as Andrea Wright, VP travel industry sales at Playa Hotels and Resorts reiterated how industry partnerships are as good as gold. Dreams Vista’s beautiful rooftop pool deck was a stunning location for the women who changed history theme costume party.

The red carpet was literally rolled out during the stay at Secrets the Vine for a start to finish flawless event.

“Throughout COVID, the strength of partnerships helped advisors get through tough times and we were honored that many of those key partners actively participated this year at our event. AMResorts and Secrets the Vine jumped through hoops to host this year’s event and we are truly grateful for their generosity and partnership!” said Jennifer Doncsecz, president of VIP Vacations and the creator of the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave.

Beyond the Boardroom

Robin Sanchez, (Your Travel Center ) Jackie Marks (ALG)  Melissa Krueger (Classic Vacations), Andrea Wright (Playa Resorts), Monica Karnes (LaMacchia Travel).

Attending the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave is not just about what takes place during the event—the connections go far beyond the conference rooms. Supporting and celebrating with one another is commonplace; collaboration, not competition, is what Female Leaders in Travel is all about.

At the beginning of 2021, just as travel requests were picking up and more people began traveling since March 2020, another pandemic challenge came on January 12 with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement of requiring air passengers to present a negative COVID test prior to boarding the airline back to the U.S. This is one example of when the going gets tough, this group of female leaders collectively gets going. Many hotels and suppliers came to members in the group to come up with ways to work together on how their mutual clients could travel with peace of mind. In a matter of days, new safety and testing protocols were put in place and the female leaders had resources to refer to and share with their teams and clients even quicker than what tour operators were publishing.

Monica Karnes, owner at LaMacchia Travel has a unique perspective of what being a part of the event all three years has meant to her. “I can tell you that this conference has exceeded my expectations, plus some," she said. "The amount of confidence I gained has been amazing. Whether it is discussing best negotiation practices, sharing success stories or discussions of compassion, empathy and sympathy in the work place, my takeaways each year are considered a gift. Being a part of this transparent, intimate group of smart, driven women have inspired me to be my best not only at work but in my day to day life. Even though these women range from vice presidents of large travel companies to successful traditional store front owners, there are truly no barriers because at the heart of it all we are similar women with similar goals.”

Shining Bright

Learning the habits of highly driven women, Annette Comer, best-selling author, founder of The World’s Greatest Women Academy and The Worlds’ Greatest Women podcast, delivered the keynote address inspiring attendees to take their unstoppable drive and implement it in five skills that women must have to reach the pinnacle of success.

The Luminary Award recipient (which is given to a woman whose work and dedication has enlightened others and helped shine the way for other ladies) was awarded to Paula Hayes, vice president of sales for the Globus family of brands. ”I’m still walking on a cloud and honored and humbled to be recognized as the 2021 Female Leaders in Travel Luminary Award recipient,” Hayes say. She is in great company with previous award winners, Mary Ellen Burke, national director of sales for AMResorts, and Dolores Lopez Lira, owner of Lomas Travel, who were both in attendance.

Travel is coming back stronger than ever and so is this group of women that attended the third Female Leaders In Travel Conclave. There is an unmistakable glow from the female leaders that attended, and the future is looking bright.

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