New Snowmass tourism Director
Yan Baczkowski, Snowmass Tourism’s new director, has arrived and jumped right in to work, meeting with staff and stakeholders all over Snowmass Village in his first two weeks.
Baczkowski hails from upstate New York and comes to Snowmass from France, where he most recently managed tourism for the Verbier/St. Bernard region.
The office’s first new director in 10 years, Baczkowski started July 15.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Baczkowski’s first job out of college was with the French Government Tourism Office, where he had interned during college and said he “fell in love.”
“It married a little bit of my linguistic ability to my love for and passion for travel and sharing and being with people,” Baczkowski said.
He started off in guest services and built the office’s first website, which he says got him noticed. He was promoted to managing director of the office, a position he held for 10 years.
During that time, he worked with tour operators, built a network with airlines and organized the 60th anniversary of D-Day. He also married his wife, Gaelle, in 2000.
After the tourism board, Baczkowski helped develop the Paris Aquarium. However, when they were expecting their first child, the Baczkowskis decided they didn’t want to raise their daughter in the city, and Yan took a job in La Baule, a seaside resort in France.
“They also have a problem with seasons,” Baczkowski said. “There’s a whole process by which we started to develop products, develop services … to attract clients all year long.”
After close to four years in that position, a recruiter tapped Baczkowski for Verbier.
“I was very intrigued by the opportunity to do what I love in a mountain setting,” Baczkowski said.
Verbier is the largest ski domain in Switzerland, and eight tourism offices from other resorts in the region are under the umbrella of the tourism managing company that Baczkowski was chief executive officer of. The shareholders are exclusively municipalities.
“When all is said and done, it boils down to the same thing,” Baczkowski said of governmental tourism offices. “Politicians, the ones that are elected by the people, they definitely have their say in the matter. We have the partners and stakeholders who have their say in the matter. And the thing is to get everyone on board by communicating, by explaining what it is we do, why we’re doing it, why we think we should do it.”
Something Verbier focused on while Baczkowski was at the helm was building on the region’s non-skiing assets, such as culture, history and food as well as events.
“Everything to attract visitors and create buzz about the destinations,” Baczkowski said.
The Baczkowskis’ daughter, Julia, is turning 7, and they decided they wanted to move back to the States.
“When I saw Snowmass as an opportunity, I thought, ‘This is perfect,’ because I love doing tourism in the mountains,” Baczkowski said. “Obviously Snowmass’ reputation precedes itself.”
Beth Albert, Snowmass Tourism marketing and communications manager, said she hopes to learn from Baczkowski’s experience with international markets.
“He listens, he’s talking to as many people as possible, he brings a whole lot of world experience to what we’re doing, and he’s already made some excellent suggestions,” she said.
In terms of group sales, “I think we’re definitely in a strong upward swing,” Baczkowski said. “But we need that leisure component to complement if you want heads on beds.”
Baczkowski mentioned the rodeo as something that appeals to foreign markets.
“We need to capitalize on that, and we need to package that into part of our selling argument, especially when they’re from far away,” Baczkowski said.
Marketing to niche groups and adding them all together will raise occupancy and revenue, he said.
“We have all the ingredients, and now we just need to try different recipes,” Baczkowski said.
Robert Sinko, chairman of the Marketing, Special Events & Group Sales Board and also a member of the director search committee, said Baczkowski’s experience dealing with multiple governmental bodies, summer tourism and seasonal markets made him stand out as a candidate.
“So far, people (in Snowmass Tourism) really believe him to be a strong leader,” Sinko said. “We’re very optimistic.”
During his first week on the job, Baczkowski spent time meeting with staff members. This week, he said he would be meeting with stakeholders, including hoteliers, restaurateurs, service providers and sports shops, to find out “what’s working, what’s not working, what can we do to improve.”
After that, he will be working with the marketing board to finalize the new business plan for the department.
“From what I’ve read so far, I think we are definitely on the right track,” he said, adding that he has some suggestions for the board. “It’s a solid document that I think is going to provide a lot of answers to questions people have about what it is we do. I was discussing it with some of the staff, and I think that we need to work on our communication.”
Baczkowski replaces Susan Hamley, who was director for 10 years. Hamley’s last day was April 14.
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A six mile cross-country ski race brought 168 skiers to the trails between Snowmass and Buttermilk in 1971.