Armed with the objective “in order to grow a business, you must grow the leader,” a group of veteran travel advisors has come together to give back to the industry they admire. The Travel A.L.L.I.E.S Society began with a small but mighty trio of female travel agency owners who are seeking to foster leadership and success for their peers.
The idea for Travel A.L.L.I.E.S (whose acronyms stand for Aligned, Loyal, Leaders, Inspire, Educate and Support) grew out of a small group Female Leaders Meeting in December 2020. Sandy Anderson, one of the society’s founding members, its current president, and a 35-year travel agency veteran spoke to Travel Market Report about its evolution, as the society quickly surpasses its 50-member mark since its official launch on April 1st.
“Myself, Vanessa McGovern, and Jennifer Doncsecz started talking about people who are leading agencies and how they don’t have a place to collaborate and work together. While some of that is provided to us during owner meetings with our consortia, we felt there needed to be another place for women leaders to support and encourage each other.”
Enter Travel A.L.L.I.E.S. Society.
Paramount to the society’s mission is to create, as Anderson put it, a “safe environment” where those in travel management could collaborate and share best business practices with one another, while strictly adhering to a code of ethics that ensures trust. (The code of ethics will be overseen by a governing committee.)
On the heels of a tumultuous year that took a toll on the agency community, Anderson mourns the lack of such a group at a time when advisors truly needed a shoulder to lean on.
“From the dust and rubble that was Covid has blossomed something amazing. Our goal is to create a network of travel agency leaders that lead with integrity, support each other, inspire others and strive to transform those they lead.”
Leadership training is key ingredient
As part of its goal, A.L.L.I.E.S. is dedicated to hosting leadership learning events such as the Female Leaders in Travel Conclave, the Young Leaders in Travel Council, and the Elevating Your Leadership Symposium, two of which are already sold out for this year.
Membership in the society is currently by application process as the board seeks out a select group of seasoned leaders who have a minimum of five years in the business. It also should be noted that it is no longer limited to just females and non-members are eligible to attend the learning events on an availability basis, with members taking precedence. Anderson noted that the 10-person board overseeing A.L.L.I.E.S. intends to cap membership at 100 for 2021, with the intent to expand in 2022. To date, the society has received more than 100 requests for membership in just its first month since launch.
“Our priority is to thoroughly vet each applicant and we are taking this responsibility very seriously. We are seeking out the very best in our industry to be role models for leadership.”
Providing the tools to thrive
Anderson went on to say that travel advisors are trained on selling destinations, learning about resorts, tour operators, and cruises. They take courses on sales techniques and even social media, but the industry lacks training programs on how to develop leadership skills.
“Most travel advisors start off by selling and have no guidance on how to grow their businesses. It is learning by trial and error with the main goal of increasing their sales. That is not the way to build a business and it is not building leadership or business planning.”
Anderson said the pandemic was an eye-opener for many and A.L.L.I.E.S. was born out of “necessity and the need to align leaders in travel agencies with the tools needed to grow their teams and their businesses. And, when you create a network where leadership skills are valued, you build a support system where leaders can receive guidance and advice on issues they are dealing with.”
A.L.L.I.E.S. is also aligning itself with vendors. Select partners representing the cruise and resort sectors will also be asked to share their leadership stories with members.
Anderson and her fellow board members are overwhelmed by the response in the market since the society’s launch less than one month ago.
“The real excitement is that so many people have reached out to join A.L.L.I.E.S.,” said Anderson. “It’s been very humbling.”