Ski travel industry convenes in Aspen
A key gathering in the ski travel industry will convene in Aspen on Sunday, bringing to town roughly 1,000 people, including more than 700 individuals who influence vacationers looking to book ski trips.A record turnout is expected for the 30th anniversary of the Mountain Travel Symposium, a week of networking, wheeling and dealing between the folks who put together ski tour packages and sales representatives from resorts from across the country and North America, as well as a few from Europe.Along with time to conduct business and attend formal presentations and panel discussions, participants will presumably take in Aspen/Snowmass – hitting the slopes and the sidewalks. Hosting the annual symposium gives a resort a definite advantage, according to Michael Pierson, co-organizer of the event.”It’s really a huge opportunity for destinations to showcase their product to groups from around the world,” he said last spring after Aspen was chosen as this year’s host. Last year’s event, in Banff/Lake Louise, drew a record 870 industry players. Registered attendees in Aspen have hit the 1,000 mark, according to Kris McKinnon, managing director of worldwide sales for the Aspen Skiing Co.”The advantage to hosting it is the people are staying in your resort. If they haven’t been here before, they get to find out what’s special about Aspen/Snowmass,” she said. “If they have been here before, they’re reminded about what makes Aspen/Snowmass so special.””Everyone in the ski business who drives tourists to ski resorts is here,” said Rob Henderson, director of sales and marketing at the St. Regis Aspen, symposium headquarters. “That’s really the bottom line. It creates an opportunity to get lots of visitors here in the future.”Roughly 25 to 30 percent of the attendees are based in Colorado, but plenty of tour operators from elsewhere will also have a chance to see firsthand what Aspen/Snowmass has to offer, McKinnon said. “We’ve got a very strong showing from international tour operators who will be attending the trade exchange,” she said.The trade exchange matches buyers (tour operators) with suppliers (ski resorts) in a series of prescheduled appointments on Monday and Tuesday.”It’s really a vacation-planning trade show,” McKinnon said.Later in the week, the group exchange will bring 130 representatives of ski clubs together with resorts and tour operators who will be trying to lure business from the clubs – groups of skiers and snowboarders who will be planning a trip for next winter.Along with the St. Regis, the Hotel Jerome, Sky Hotel and The Gant are all major players in hosting the conference. Ski club representatives will be staying at an array of the town’s smaller lodges, as well.All of the participants will receive complimentary ski passes for the week. In addition, about a dozen restaurants will offer 50 percent discounts to symposium attendees during Tuesday’s planned Night on the Town. The event will also feature a cocktail reception at the Jerome and a champagne reception at the gondola plaza with fireworks on Aspen Mountain.Local business officials are urging downtown merchants to stay open until 10 p.m. Tuesday for the guests.The theme for this year’s symposium is “Manage the Challenge of Change.”Roger J. Dow, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of America, will offer “One Size Doesn’t Fit All,” a talk on customer service in an increasingly competitive market.A panel discussion, “Big Guns – Big Issues,” will explore what the future of the ski industry holds. Panelists include David Perry, senior vice president of the Aspen Skiing Co.; Graham Atkinson, senior vice president of Worldwide Sales and Alliances for United Airlines; Aspen resident Harry Peisach, who acquired an interest in ski.com in 2003 and became its president and chief executive officer; David Barry, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Intrawest Colorado; and Pamela Wright, division vice president of travel industry and partnership sales with The Hertz Corp. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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