Highlights from 2022 Future Leaders in Travel Retreat
Powered by TravelAge West, the Future Leaders in Travel Retreat took place at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos resort from August 28-31.
The retreat is designed for travel professionals aged 22-37 years old to come together, network, and help each other grow – both personally and in business. This year, over 80 professionals attended what would go on to be described by several as a “life-changing” week.
Playa Hotels & Resorts, the host sponsor of the event, kicked off the retreat with an “Emily in Paris” themed party. Andrea Wright, Vice President of Sales – USA at Playa Hotels & Resorts, welcomed the Future Leaders of the travel industry with a line from the show.
“Americans live to work and the French work to live,” Wright said, informing the attendees how they, the next generation of the travel industry, should adopt this mindset in their daily life because of the importance they have on the future of not just the industry but the entire world.
It was just the beginning of several words of wisdom that would be shared throughout the week.
Opening panel at the 2022 Future Leaders in Travel Retreat (photo by Eric Bowman)
The event featured engaging panelists and speakers from both the supplier and advisor sides, all with a wide range of experience.
Nearly 50 advisors were vetted and hand-picked to attend this exclusive event after an in-depth application process. While several just started their career in the travel industry within the last few years, all were eager to learn and make new connections.
“It’s really exciting to see how many young advisors there are out here,” said Mallory Jones of You Deserve It Vacations. “Everyone’s just really eager and ready to grow their business.”
Day two’s supplier-advisor appointments put two advisors together at a supplier’s table for a 10-minute meeting to learn more about the brand while connecting with the brand’s representative.
Having 10 advisor guides who attended the 2021 Future Leaders in Travel Retreat also helped foster development. The guides shared their own words of wisdom and provided many of the new industry advisors with a shoulder to lean on and a brain to pick.
“The Future Leaders in Travel is indispensable for young professionals in the industry to come to this event, primarily because it breaks up a lot of the monotony of going to regular industry events that caters to just learning about suppliers,” Ryan Taylor of Ryan F&T said. “This one focuses a lot more on building connections and I think it does a really good job in enhancing that relationship between agent and supplier.”
In addition to hearing from industry experts on the topics of diversifying revenue streams, industry innovations, and the keys to the supplier-advisor relationship, the Future Leaders in Travel Retreat featured two different workshops.
“Personality Selling; Gain Control from the Beginning!” was presented by Jenn Lee, VP Industry Engagement and Support, Travel Planners International. She highlighted personality selling techniques for advisors to better understand how to deal with clients based on their dominant personality trait – from the commanding bull, the highly-detailed owl, the caring lamb, and the sociable yet scatterbrained tiger.
The other workshop, titled “The Solution Room”, was sponsored by G Adventures. Here, advisors and suppliers separated into groups to tackle real-world business challenges and tips on how to solve them. Advisors and suppliers bounced ideas off each other and shared their best practices in key areas like marketing, charging fees, supplier-advisor relationships and more.
“This event has been eye-opening, especially for a young guy like me,” said Jeffrey Pawid, Director of Sales – North Region USA for Exoticca. “I know there’s a lot of young people out there within the industry and some of them have the experience and some of them do not. The collective thinking and the collective pain points as well the successes just opens up my eyes as a supplier and I’m sure for travel advisors as well.”
Sunrise views at Hyatt Los Cabos (photo by Eric Bowman)
Connecting With Peers
The connections made throughout the appointments and workshops continued further during the private dinners at Le Blanc Los Cabos and Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, as well as day three’s sunrise yoga and the group activity excursion on the final day. Most of the attendees hopped onto a Catamaran Cruise that sailed past the iconic arch of Cabo San Lucas and over to snorkel and swim outside Chileno Bay Beach.
Relationships are key, and this event provided a space for young advisors and suppliers to further develop crucial connections.
“Through the connections made this week, I have learned to honor my self-worth,” said Emily Zwiebel of ET Family Travel. “By this I mean, working smarter not harder, adding fees for the added work, [and] getting creative. I am filled with knowledge. I can market that and make a profit. I am not just an independent contractor – I am a business owner. It was really a lesson in a mindset shift that I will continue to work on.”
Shannon Burke-Banks, Senior Account Manager, National Accounts, for Globus Family of Brands, noted why it’s crucial for suppliers to attend the event to make connections.
“It’s a really unique opportunity to interact with future leaders, as the event is named, within our industry and really get them to know your product in a kind of personal way that you wouldn’t get to otherwise,” said Burke-Banks.
For Tyson Wharton, owner of Sioux Empire Travel, the opportunity to experience the retreat was “outstanding.”
“By the time the week was over, I had made priceless connections with suppliers, other advisors and leaders in the travel industry. I had a notebook consumed with ideas on how to better my business on a large and small scale. I understood myself, my clients, and others in my life better because of Jenn Lee’s BOLT workshop… all in all, this was one of those business growth moments where I feel energized, supported and most of all, educated beyond measure,” Wharton said.
“Through our panels and supplier partners, my eyes have been opened to the many possibilities for my clients,” Zwiebel said. “Most of all, this is a business of connections. We need to connect with clients, not just plan for them. We need to connect and work with supplier partners, not just call them when we need them. Everyone at this event was incredibly supportive. At the end of the day, we are not competing, we are working together to help people see the world.”
Bright Future Ahead
The Millennials and Gen Z generations are well on their way to taking over the travel industry. The knowledge and insights gained at the Future Leaders in Travel Retreat will only propel that forward.
And it’s already helping create future bookings.
Kendra White of All Things Travel LLC landed eight new bookings within just a few days following the event.
“When you attend certain events and post about it, people think you stick out and are different,” White said. “The first question one of the clients asked me is what is your fee, that lets me know they are watching but also I’m worth it. This [event] helped me land new business because I was in a place some have never been and they want to explore, and I let them know it’s attainable.”
Wharton is also looking ahead to new bookings.
“I have adopted some changes I learned from other advisors and suppliers, as well as started to put my notes into practice,” Wharton said. “I have a bunch of leads from my social media posts for Los Cabos. I also met a couple of suppliers that my clients desperately need and will be turning those into bookings within the next month. I will also be incorporating a new strategy for service fees and other places where I can make more money starting in 2023.”
And speaking of 2023, Playa Hotels & Resorts has signed on to once again be the host sponsor of the event.
“We were excited to be able to have the golden opportunity to host the Future Leaders in Travel Retreat again this year,” said Jermaine Humphrey Director of Sales – USA for Playa Hotels and Resorts. “We hosted it last year at our Hilton Playa del Carmen property and it was such a success it only made sense that we hosted it again. This year again, another successful event – three days of great content with some of our brightest and strongest future leaders in the travel industry to keep this industry alive. We were able to secure not only for 2023 but we will also be hosting the 2024 Future Leaders and Travel Retreat.”
The 2023 event will take place August 27-30 at Hyatt Ziva/Zilara Rose Hall in Jamaica and the 2024 date is to be determined.
Visit futureleadersintravel.com more information.