TravelAge West and parent company Northstar Travel Group returned to Aspen, Colo., from Sept. 3 to 5, for the second annual Future Leaders in Travel Retreat. With the intention of connecting the travel industry's next generation of top buyers and sellers, this year's event welcomed 78 qualified attendees between the ages of 22 and 37, including 49 fully hosted, carefully vetted travel advisors.
Northstar Travel Group is the parent of Travel Weekly and TravelAge West.
Held at Aspen Meadows Resort, home of the world-renowned Aspen Institute, the first full day of the Retreat opened with an uplifting session from keynote speaker Gina Murdock. Murdock, who is the founder and co-director of social impact organization Lead With Love, asked the audience to take a hard look inward and evaluate their purpose, well-being and overall self-love.
Murdock's encouraging presentation resonated with the Retreat's objective of embodying what it's named for: a retreat. Idyllic Aspen set the tone. Attendees took part in reenergizing outdoor activities such as hiking and biking at Maroon Bells, sunrise yoga in Anderson Park and hiking the Rim Trail overlooking Snowmass Village.
This year, suppliers and advisors also participated in a lively, three-hour scavenger hunt around downtown Aspen. Split into nine teams, the attendees learned about the destination, solved riddles, interacted with locals and were quizzed about event sponsors. Evening affairs also had attendees hitting the town, at Silver City Mountain Saloon, the brand-new W Aspen hotel and nightclub Bootsy Bellows Aspen.
Activities were paired with robust educational content that echoed this year's theme, "Building a Roadmap for Success." The "Masterclass in Bossing Up" panel spoke directly to the topic, addressing items such as how to find a mentor, effective tools for evaluating progress and personal stories about recovering from failure. Panelists included Allegra Lynch, president of Authentic Vacations; Julia Pirrung, founder and CEO of Jet Set World Travel, and founder and global strategic advisor for Axus Travel App; Danny Genung, CEO of Harr Travel; and John Diorio, director of sales for U.S. and Canada West at Virgin Voyages. The panel was moderated by Valerie Chen, deputy digital editor of TravelAge West.
The event also featured four highly interactive workshops. Gina Bang, director of marketing for Avanti Destinations, walked through how attendees can rework and refine their elevator pitch, while Pirrung shared best practices for engaging and qualifying clients. On the following day, Jenn Lee, vice president of sales and marketing for Travel Planners International, shared practical, attainable tips on increasing revenue and profitability; and Vanessa McGovern, co-founder and CEO of Gifted Travel Network, covered best practices on building essential, and mutually beneficial, relationships between advisors and suppliers.
While still onsite at the Retreat, attendees offered real-time key takeaways during a dynamic Think Tank discussion, which was moderated by Brennan Quesnele, vice president of sales for Gogo Vacations, and Scott Largay, director of marketing for Largay Travel. Around the room, advisors and suppliers shared what they learned and how they plan to incorporate the fresh ideas into their businesses.
"This year at Future Leaders in Travel Retreat, we discussed how attendees could level up their businesses," said Mindy Poder, executive editor of TravelAge West. "And, interestingly enough, many return attendees told us that this year's content and activities were even better than last year's. I guess you can say we practice what we preach: Through learning and collaboration, we're only going to get better."
The third Future Leaders in Travel Retreat will return to Aspen Meadows Resort from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, 2020.
Updated: This report was updated to correct the byline. The article was written by Valerie Chen, who is TravelAge West's deputy digital editor.