“When I joined the agency at 22 and attended trade events, I felt so out of place as most other travel agents there were much older," recalls Jessica Renshaw of Renshaw Travel. "I felt as if I didn’t belong.”
It was that desire to belong which lead Renshaw to create the Vancouver chapter of Young Travel Professionals (YTP), an organization which was originally founded in New York in 2011. Today, there are 17 chapters across the U.S., as well as Toronto, Cape Town and London.
PAX spoke extensively to Renshaw during a recent YTP Vancouver event, to discuss the chapter's creation. Renshaw reminisced back to her start in the travel industry.
“I would be so excited to meet another agent my age. I told my sister Carly - who is four years older - how I felt, and she agreed.”
In 2013, Jessica attended a Virtuoso conference and met Wazha Dube, one of the original founders of YTP.
“Wazha and I immediately clicked," Renshaw recalled. "He told me how he and his travel agent friend were on a FAM trip and felt out of place due to their young age, and how they created YTP as a community for young agents to meet and socialize. I was so happy to hear about that concept and I wanted to bring it here.”
Pumped from her discussion, Jessica returned to Vancouver and within two months, founded the Vancouver chapter – the first in Canada - along with Carly, who is also a travel advisor at Renshaw Travel. The pair eventually recruited Kemi Wells of North South Travel, Ian Kershaw of Roger Kershaw Custom Travel Inc, and Miles Walker of On the Go Tours as advisory board members.
Kevin Dombrow of Staybridge Suites; Robyn Gallegos of Greater Palm Springs CVB; Kemi Wells of North South Travel; Sarah Goslin of Greater Palm Springs CVB; and Thomas Soule of City of Palm Desert.
Jessica elaborated further on the Vancouver chapter: “We don’t like to use the term networking as it sometimes has a negative connotation, agents think they are going to be sold something. Rather, we call them community gatherings of like-minded individuals. We all share the same vision – the importance of building a fun and purposeful community where we can bounce ideas from each other, share success stories, and mentor each other. We now have over 200 members, we meet once every quarter, and everyone is thrilled to see each other and catch up.”
PAX attended the latest YTP Vancouver event – a harbour cruise sponsored by the Greater Palm Springs CVB. More than 50 members mixed and mingled over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres with Robyn Gallegos of Greater Palm Springs, Thomas Soule from the City of Palm Desert and Kevin Dombrow from Staybridge Suites in Cathedral City. A short product presentation followed, giving attendees great information about the destination. Jessica is very grateful for supplier sponsorship. “When it is a sponsored event, our members come with a focus, to meet suppliers and to learn something. And our sponsor gets an opportunity to engage with and educate our members.”
YTP membership is not just limited to travel agents. Anyone in the hospitality industry can join. Membership is free, and despite the name, there is no age cap.