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The 5th annual Ascend by ALGVacations (Oct. 18-20) took place last week at the Cancun Convention Center, hosting 650 travel advisors and 250 suppliers and destinations, plus 100 members of the AGLV team overseeing 50 workshops and two trade shows.

In addition to browsing the elaborate and colorful collection of trade show booths and sampling cuisine from their host city, attendees took advantage of expert advice offered in breakout sessions touching on everything from getting comfortable with public speaking to improving their group game and giving back in destinations via voluntourism.

The opening day trade show floor.

And when they weren’t getting their fill of valuable information, advisors got their fill of live music, dancing, incredible cuisine and exotic libations during nightly beach parties, along with networking opportunities galore—and more food and drink—during the conference itself. Small wonder Ascend 2023 sold out in three weeks and boasted a long and hopeful waiting list.

Ascend 2023 Opens With a Bang

But what would an event like this be without celebrities? They were out in full force during the opening general session, including Queer Eye‘s Carson Kressley—who participated in a hilarious parody of the “4th hour of the Today Show” —and SNL legends Chris Kattan and Cheri Oteri, the former revisiting his goofy “Roxbury” lounge lizard character, and the latter reprising her memorable role as a clueless but completely focused cheerleader.

Besides the great comic relief, advisors heard from some luminaries of the hospitality industry, including Mark S. Hoplamazian, president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels, which finalized its acquisition of Apple Leisure Group (ALG) in 2021, putting luxury all-inclusive hotel development and acquisition on fast forward ever since. 

You’re all in the right place in the right time,” Hoplamazian told the group during the general session. “Three years ago, it felt like travel was at risk. Bill Gates said corporate travel was dead. Of course, he had a big stake in Microsoft Teams,” Hoplamazian added, to great laughter.

“The thing is, he was dead wrong. What he got wrong and didn’t recognize is the power of human connection and engaging with family and friends. Going through the pandemic, people realized how important connecting with others was,” Hoplamazian said, pointing to the brisk resumption of leisure travel following the relaxation of Covid protocols.

“Leisure has continued to grow and percolate,” Hoplamazian pointed out. “At Hyatt, our luxury portfolio has doubled, and our number of resorts has tripled…we’ve continued to keep our foot on the gas pedal, and we want to deepen our access to high-end clients.” 

To that end, Hyatt has major expansion plans brewing in Europe, buying the London-based travel platform Mr. and Mrs. Smith—which offers direct booking to more than 1,500 boutique and luxury properties—and planning new luxury all-inclusives in Portugal and Bulgaria. 

Exclusive and All-Inclusive: World of Hyatt in Cancun

Suite at Secrets The Vine.

During Ascend 2023, attendees were treated to stays and after-hours events at a number of World of Hyatt properties, including the ultra-luxe Impression by Secrets Isla Mujeres, the breathtaking Breathless Cancun Soul Resort & Spa, the all-adult Secrets The Vine and the family-friendly Dreams Vista Cancun Golf & Spa Resort. 

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