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Aspen to host ’05 travel symposium

Janet Urquhart

Aspen will play host to a key international gathering within the ski travel industry when it hosts the 30th anniversary of the Mountain Travel Symposium in April 2005.

Organizers formally announced Aspen as the site of next year’s event during the 2004 symposium, held April 18-24 in the Canadian resort of Banff/Lake Louise. A record 870 industry players took part in last month’s weeklong conference. Attendance at the Aspen symposium could top 1,000, according to Michael Pierson, who runs the event with partner Ralf Garrison.

The symposium put out a request for proposals from potential resort hosts last year and narrowed its choices to Aspen and a couple of Tahoe destinations. The package put together by the Aspen Skiing Co. was impressive, Pierson said.

The Skico offered a proposal jointly with Stay Aspen Snowmass and the St. Regis Aspen, Hotel Jerome, Sky Hotel and The Gant, all of which will provide lodging for participants as well as conference space for the symposium’s educational workshops and get-togethers between resort representatives and tour operators. The Skico will provide complimentary lift tickets to symposium participants.

“The symposium, I would say, is the premier ski industry travel trade event,” said Kris McKinnon, managing director of worldwide sales for the Skico.

As many as 175 domestic and international tour operators are expected at next year’s symposium, along with some 120 ski club representatives who will be eyeing ski destinations and looking to arrange travel packages for their groups.

“It’s really a huge opportunity for destinations to showcase their product to groups from around the world,” Pierson said.

And, the host resort enjoys the added benefits of an influx of visitors and a chance to show off its offerings firsthand to decision makers in the travel industry, McKinnon noted.

“It’s very typical that from the travel trade community, you see a spike in business the following year because all of those people have just been here and your resort is fresh in their minds,” she said.

The symposium last took place locally in 2000, when Snowmass hosted the gathering. Next year’s event in Aspen is scheduled April 3-9, coinciding with the final week of the ski season.

A number of representatives from Aspen traveled to The Fairmont Banff Springs for last month’s 2004 symposium, including Skico personnel, area lodging representatives and players in the travel industry. Mayor Helen Klanderud and Hana Pevny, Aspen Chamber Resort Association president, also attended as the Skico will be looking to the city and the chamber to play a role in hosting next year’s event, McKinnon said.

Panelists at the educational sessions in Banff included David Perry, Skico senior vice president, who took part in discussions on the “State of the Industry” and “The Care and Feeding of Destination Visitors.” Other Aspen representatives also helped lead panel discussions.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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