Vail Resorts CEO to speak at Mountain Travel Symposium in Keystone |

Vail Resorts CEO to speak at Mountain Travel Symposium in Keystone

Staff Report

Although the current ski season still has more than a month of operations at many major destinations resorts, the preliminary data suggests that destination travel in the 2008-09 ski season will show a marked decline after nearly two decades of consistent growth. Long considered a mostly recession-proof industry, the mountain travel industry meeting at their 34th annual Mountain Travel Symposium (MTS) in Keystone, Colorado March 29-April 3 will be confronting a new set of realities as they review the nearly final lodging results for the past season.

The MTS week attracts 900 to 1,100 participants annually and includes two tradeshows–the Trade and Group Exchanges–where providers of various travel components (resorts, airlines, lodging, and transportation) meet in scheduled appointments with travel buyers”international and domestic tour operators, group travel coordinators, and travel agents for to discuss and negotiate contacts for next season. The Forum, which includes two days of professional development, offers updated and innovative training sessions for participants from around the U.S., Canada, Europe, and South America.

This year, Symposium participants are grappling with the realities of a bleak economy, tentative travelers, and scaled back budgets. This year’s Forum, entitled Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones, is tailored specifically to help attendees gain a better grasp on how current circumstances will dictate a new approach and tactics for managing their business.

The Forum launches April 1 at the Keystone Conference Center at 8:30 a.m. and features general sessions with three distinctive perspectives on today’s economy and its impact on the mountain travel industry. Dr. Lalia Rach kicks off the Forum with her consumer-centric presentation entitled “Survival Guide: Understanding Consumers During ‘Interesting’ Times,” on how to move beyond the current set of challenges and find new opportunities. The second general session provides a business focus in “The State of Destination Mountain Travel 2010: Taking It From the Top; Where and How Do We Go From Here?” beginning at 10:15 a.m. and featuring Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts; and Mike Shannon, CEO of KSL Capital Partners. They’re expected to share their insights and viewpoints about what to anticipate in resort travel in the coming months. Ralf Garrison, founder of the Mountain Travel Research Program (MTRiP), will introduce the session with the most recent mountain lodging data available from MTRiP’s databank and will include details from the past six months as well as preliminary indicators about the coming summer and winter forecast. Questions from the audience will be accepted.

The third general session on Thursday, April 2 at 8:30 a.m. features Dr. Oren Harari on “Blueprint for Success in Turmoil: The Culture of Change” with a closer look at the big picture and how attendees can better manage and organize themselves and their business in these times of mandated change. According to Harari, participants should expect to “settle in for the long haul because of the great uncertainty” [of this economy]. He’ll discuss current trends that are shaping consumer behavior and will deliver a blueprint for action that includes cleaning up the “toxic assets” in every company whether they are programs, personnel, or services; and creating a healthy sense of urgency to attract future customers.

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“We recognize that Forum participants need an objective assessment of the variables that impacted their business this past season as well as some action-driven direction on what to anticipate and how to react for the coming season,” said Mike Pierson, partner of the Mountain Travel Symposium.

In addition to the three general sessions on the mornings of April 1 and 2, 14 individual workshops, including follow up sessions by Dr. Rach and Dr. Harari, will be offered on both afternoons on five different topics including communication, distribution channels, marketing, sales, and hospitality.

“Although the rapidly declining economic situation forced the resort industry to adapt very quickly and settle for “less bad” results this season, that same level of acceptance won’t be realistic or viable next season,” claims Garrison, who also serves as Forum director and Symposium partner. “We know that marketing professionals and business owners are already scrambling to find and utilize every marketing tool available to strengthen their competitive position for next year so our objective with the Forum is to deliver strategic information and tools to help participants achieve their goals.”

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