New Global Travel Advisor Recognition Program Launches

“Travel is back…you can feel it,” said Krystal Aziz, Director of Operations at Modern TravelWorks.
Over 400 travel advisors made their way down to Cancun, Mexico October 14-17 to hone their skills and connect with peers and industry suppliers. This was the third ever Ascend Conference, and the first time it was held internationally. The 2020 show was forced to be virtual because of the pandemic and the first event in 2019 took place near ALG’s headquarters in Pennsylvania. Why the name Ascend? “The journey to grow never ends,” ALG executive vice president Jacki Marks said. You always have to be climbing and learning. After a welcome party at the new Dreams Vista Cancun Golf & Spa Resort on Thursday night, the conference kicked off Friday morning at the Cancun Conference Center with Marks welcoming advisors and thanking them for all the hard work they did throughout the pandemic. “We believe the best way to accomplish anything is that we do it together,” Marks told the crowd, which was filled with advisors from several major agencies, including AAA Travel, American Express, Ensemble, Leisure Travel Alliance, MAST, TravelSavers/NEST, Signature, Travel Leaders Network, and Virtuoso. Marks’ opening was followed by keynote speaker Erik Weihenmayer, who gave an incredible speech that left some of the audience in tears. It was an emotional, moving speech from Weihenmayer, who is the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He spoke of people and how many are either quitters, campers, or climbers. It was a fitting message in a room full of travel advisors, none of whom are quitters as they all survived and powered through the pandemic. But the speech was right on the nose for what the industry needed – are you camping and staying stagnant or are you going to keep climbing and ascend to new heights? Those here at the 2021 Ascend Conference are on their way to climbing higher and higher. The help from the plethora of workshops ALG Vacations put together as well as the chance to connect in person with several suppliers from Mexico and the Caribbean at the trade show floor were the main reasons so many chose to attend this live event. “Relationships are the foundation of this industry,” Marks told TravelPulse. “We’ve been virtual, we’ve made it work, but is it our best work when we’re virtual? No, we need these conferences because we need that human element of conversation that when done via Zoom it just doesn’t come off as the ability to collaborate in the same way. We laughed together; we even cried a little bit together in this conference just realizing that we’ve made it. That human connection we have to each other, it pushes us, it drives us.” Advisors felt the same way. “It’s great to be here,” Jordan Bradshaw, Vice President Northcutt Travel Agency said. “There’s a lot of energy, lots of people getting motivated to get back with the travel industry. My favorite part is that I get to cultivate the connections I already have and make new ones.” Workshops throughout the weekend focused on social media learning, elevating your business, destinations weddings, understanding more about ALG’s policies and offerings – which was key for advisors given the company’s vast collection of brands – and so much more. “They did a great job of making the workshops unique so you could pick and choose based on what you’re interested in,” Sarah Kline, President of Time for Travel said. “I loved the social media influencer one.”
Social Media Influencer panel
Social Media Influencer panel workshop at 2021 ALG Ascend Conference (photo by Eric Bowman)
The social media influencer workshop was also one that stuck out for Aziz, who noted how important it is to sign up for as many workshops as possible. “You have to attend the workshops because you’re going to learn something new, there’s going to be nuggets of information at every single workshop you go to. The one I personally loved was the social media influencers one.” ALG opted for a full live event as opposed to adding a virtual feature to make it a hybrid event like previous industry events have been doing throughout 2021. “You can’t do this online,” said James Berglie, President of Be All Inclusive. “The virtual workshops just didn’t work for me personally, there’s too many distractions. But being here in person, having a presenter grab your attention, there’s no substitute for that. It’s been excellent. The workshops have been amazing. They’ve really helped address some of the key areas of my business that we need help with.” The closing session reiterated the need for advisors to keep climbing, keep learning, and to use the knowledge gained from the conference to remain resilient in building the travel industry back up. Being back together and learning from each other is a key component in making sure that happens. With the 2021 conference completed, Marks told TravelPulse she’s already looking ahead to 2022. “We’ve already secured our dates to be back here in Cancun. We’ll be announcing them shortly to get advisors excited and holding the dates.” free,50647075.html

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