Michael Robinson’s column
Paris. London. Sydney. New York, Los Angeles, Orlando. And dare I say Aspen. The above are all worldly brands just like Vail. Not only is our destination an A-list player among such top-notch destinations, but we got there the hard way. We earned the rank to be called world-class. Its a mighty sword to swing, as our name recognition alone brings national sponsors including Visa, Volvo, Coors and Charles Schwab.But like many things in life, looks can be deceiving. In other words, this sword we swing is a double-edged one, meaning now that the destination has earned this reputation, we have to work harder to retain it. And the Vail Valley Partnership is working.As proof, this week alone, three of our senior staff, myself included, are attending state and national conferences that touch on learning to be the best, becoming the best and staying the best. The Governors 2007 Colorado Tourism Conference, taking place Oct. 10 to 12 in Grand Junction, will bring together the best minds in tourism and travel the state has to offer. While Chris Romer, the Partnerships director of marketing and Rich tenBraak, our director of travel and tourism, join with colleagues from around the state and learn what our Rocky Mountain neighbors are doing to be the best, I will be a venturing outside of the lower 48, attending the Western Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska.As an internationally known brand, it is crucial the Vail Valley have a physical presence at such events.The tourism and travel industry is a competitive and creative one. As a brilliant marketing strategy can directly impact the average daily rate generated by our local lodges, a less-than-brilliant strategy means your competing neighbors may be tapping into the pool of potential guests. The nature of our business as a mountain destination demands us to be keen when it comes to marketing tactics, guest services, industry trends and innovations which is why the importance of the Vail Valleys participation in these type of regional and national conferences cannot be understated.
While the valley has been represented at the governors conference for some time and its purpose and relevance may be already understood, let me introduce you to the benefits of the Western Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus annual meeting.The opening general session of the conference called Big Education, Wild Ideas, and Life Skills will kick off with four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser, the essence of the Anchorage Convention &Visitors Bureaus new brand Big Wild Life. Not only will he talk about how he came up with the brand for Anchorage, he also will share stories of spirit, courage, stamina and luck lessons from business as well as the Iditarod.Then theres trendsetter Tim Schneider from Schneider Publishing Co. (publisher of Association News and SportsTravel magazine and organizers of the TEAMS Conference & Expo), who will discuss the future and resiliency of the sports-related travel and event industry. According to the Travel Industry Association, the sports-related travel market generates 47 million hotel room nights annually. Thus, his presentation, The Power of Sports is aptly named and relevant to the Vail Valley.
Not only will this conference showcase presentations by keynote speakers who are their industries best, it also will offer workshops for conference attendees to gather, share ideas and more importantly, best practices.Workshops will focus hot topics including: motivation for meeting-destination selection, the U.S. Hispanic market and ideas for marketing and advertising strategy development, building an effective and strategic board of directors, how to encourage service enthusiasm among employees, the business of visitor centers and innovations in convention services including video-based content on the Internet and use of this tool by chambers and visitors bureaus. And this only covers day one and day two of a three-day conference.One presentation titled Branding is Great… But Are You Ensuring the Promise is Being Kept? will focus on the emphasis being placed on understanding and cultivating the brand of our destinations. Listening to expert brand marketers discuss an organizations brand essence and how to ensure the brand promise is being kept for visitors, meeting planners and other clients/customers, is a lesson I will take home to the Vail Valley with me.
At the end of the day, or end of the conference, gathering best practices (for consideration and possible implementation locally) as well as representing the world-recognized brand of Vail (meaning of course the entire Vail Valley from East Vail to Dotsero) in these gatherings reflects our destinations determination to remain in the top echelon of mountain destinations. This organization is the only true destination marketing organization for the area, as our responsibilities lie with the business community that defines the destination, and we must be engaged at all levels of the industry to effectively and responsibly represent our tourism & hospitality interests. That is our mission to support, unite and lead and that is our commitment to this destination. Thank you for allowing us to represent you this week with such enthusiasm and dedication.