SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Approximately 1,200 mountain travel professionals from resorts across the country are in Snowmass Village this week to network, conduct business and ski and snowboard together.
They're all here for the Mountain Travel Symposium, an annual conference for ski-resort professionals now in its 38th year. The main purpose of the event is to bring players in all different aspects of the industry together, according to executive director Bruce Rosard. But for businesspeople in Snowmass, it is also an important opportunity to show off.
The symposium includes three separate business exchanges for trade (tour operators and suppliers such as resort companies, hotels and airlines), groups and meeting planners. Some people attend all three exchanges, while others are focused on one area.
Susan Hamley, director of Snowmass Tourism, said members of her organization will take advantage of the one-on-one meetings with buyers in the group block.
"(The group exchange) allows us to increase awareness of our resort among tour operators, for example, generating new business from that channel," Hamley said.
Many people also attend the educational sessions, which Rosard said are appropriate for all three groups. This year the topics include catering to mobile-device users and using social media for marketing. Executives from Google and Facebook will speak about using their sites for travel marketing at a session April 10.
"Many of us attend the educational sessions and workshops to garner very relevant and forward-looking insights, trends and best practices that we can think about applying in our own business," Hamley said. "Of most value, however, is likely the networking. There are many social functions, which offer the opportunity to share and hear other perspectives, develop worthwhile new partnerships and celebrate the passion we all share for mountain travel."
Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said that the networking is a key reason to participate.
"Attending (the Mountain Travel Symposium) allows our team to spend time with many of the biggest influencers in the travel industry," he said. "It is the perfect environment for learning about trends, discussing business and socializing in an environment that represents what our business is all about."
The symposium bids itself out to different resort towns well in advance of each conference. One of the reasons for choosing Snowmass Village for this year was that the Westin, where all of the symposium's business events will be held, just completed its renovation, Rosard said.
"It's a great year to come," Rosard said. "There's a lot of great things about the Westin."
The Mountain Travel Symposium fills hotel rooms in a quiet time of year, Rosard pointed out, and it is also an opportunity for Aspen and Snowmass Village to show off.
"(Residents will) see the industry all over town ... from literally just about every major resort in Western North America," Rosard said. "Represent your town. Show off the hospitality. That is hard because it's mid-April and you're burnt out. But this is a time to show off."
Hamley said Snowmass Tourism is excited to showcase Snowmass to attendees who haven't been to the resort in a long time.
"We've evolved as a resort through the years, and one needs to experience it to truly appreciate it," she said. "New business will certainly be generated as a result."
Hanle echoed that sentiment.
"To have this event in Snowmass is an added bonus," he said. "We get to show off all the improvements and amenities that have been built at Snowmass over the last eight to 10 years. Many of the attendees might not have been here in that long, and it gives them the chance to experience it firsthand."
Registration for the Mountain Travel Symposium is online. The forum, which is the educational part of the symposium, takes place April 10 and 11. Forum tickets are available at half-day, one-day and two-day rates starting at $245. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.mtntrvl.com.