Future Leaders in Travel Retreat geared toward next generation of travel pros

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Some attendees participated in a ropes course at Lost Forest in Snowmass, Colo.
Some attendees participated in a ropes course at Lost Forest in Snowmass, Colo. Credit: 2018 Jacquie Hurst

The inaugural Future Leaders in Travel Retreat, a three-day event produced by Travel Weekly sister publication TravelAge West and parent Northstar Travel Group, brought together the next generation of leaders in the travel industry in Aspen, Colo.

The 66 attendees, including 41 travel advisers, all between the ages of 22 and 37, were encouraged to take advantage of Aspen's unique position as a destination that fosters creativity and a free-flowing exchange of ideas, as well as its wellness and adventure tourism opportunities. (The conference took place at the Aspen Meadows Resort; in addition to being home to the world-famous Aspen Institute, Aspen Meadows Resort has hosted world leaders such as the Dalai Lama and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.)

"In the last few years, we've seen a real flood of awesome new talent join the industry, so we wanted to honor that," said Mindy Poder, executive editor of TravelAge West, during The Retreat's opening address. "We realized there are a lot of travel conferences out there, but we knew that if we created an event specifically for this demographic, we could do things differently. By focusing on our peers, we could be more active, more adventurous, more experiential in our educational content and more fun."

To get their blood flowing in the mornings, attendees had the opportunity to participate in activities such as hiking, biking and yoga in the Maroon Bells  Snowmass Wilderness, along with exploring Lost Forest adventure park in nearby Snowmass, Colo. During the evenings, The Retreat highlighted Aspen's top accommodation options and nightlife hot spots.

Attendees took a cooking class at the Cooking School of Aspen during a block party sponsored by The Travel Corporation.
Attendees took a cooking class at the Cooking School of Aspen during a block party sponsored by The Travel Corporation. Credit: 2018 Northstar Travel Group

Meanwhile, educational content was designed specifically for The Retreat's age demographic: Panel discussions focused on the future of the industry, and a live-storytelling competition showcased suppliers' ability to go off their sales pitch script and share a unique message fueled by personal experience. Keynote speakers included ski champion and Aspen local Chris Davenport, and 29-year-old Cassie De Pecol, who claims the title of the fastest and first documented woman to travel to every sovereign country in the world.

"I've been really impressed with the overall quality and content of everything that has been put together, and it's fun to be around a group of young people who are excited to be here, learn together and grow together," said Sarah Lippy, senior meetings and special events planner for Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based JM Family Enterprises. "I'll take a lot of what I learned here back to my business, and I'm really excited to go back to work after having this time to slow down and think  it's been a really nice part of the overall experience here."

Breakout sessions allowed the future leaders to collaborate in smaller groups; workshops covered topics such as next-level sales and marketing techniques, personal branding, building industry relationships, growing a successful business and channeling an entrepreneurial spirit.

Travel advisor attendees were highly vetted via a 16-page application that included open-ended questions such as "What are your perceptions of the current state of the industry?" and "What do you see as possible challenges that the industry is facing regarding technology, changing buying habits and training?"

The Future of Travel panel discussed the short-term future of the industry, including what attendees can expect to see within the next five years.
The Future of Travel panel discussed the short-term future of the industry, including what attendees can expect to see within the next five years. Credit: 2018 Northstar Travel Group

Jacquie Hurst, director of trade recruitment and engagement for Travel Weekly Events, chose each of the 41 travel advisors from more than 200 applications. Hurst says that she was extremely impressed by the caliber of agents who applied. 

"Personally, when I see someone young who is so well-written and so passionate about their career, it impresses me," she said. "These advisors are professionals, they want to be leaders, they want to stay in the industry, and they make the industry better."

The second Future Leaders in Travel Retreat will return to Aspen Meadows Resort on Sept. 3-5, 2019. For more information, and to be notified when advisor applications open, please visit www.futureleadersintravel.com. For supplier inquiries, contact Shannon Tiger at [email protected] or 609-298-7647.

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