The Mountain Travel Symposium is a combination of family reunion, speed dating, trade show and summer school. The event returns to Vail starting Sunday.
The annual symposium rotates between stations, but hasn’t met in person since 2019. Vail was in the rotation for 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, so Vail slipped into the 2022 spot.
Vail’s director of economic development, Mia Vlaar, has long been involved with the symposium in one way or another. Vlaar said she looks forward to the training sessions, in part because Vail gets the chance to tell the world about her sustainability and stewardship efforts.
Vlaar said Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid will speak about the resort’s sustainability practices and the city’s still-developing “Destination Stewardship” project. There will also be a panel discussion on how stations are adapting to the need to balance sustainability with a robust economy.
Mountain Travel Symposium content director Catherine Shaw said other sessions will focus on other travel trends. The pandemic has changed the travel industry a lot.
Shaw added that there will also be workshops on “diversity, equity and inclusion” and the role that now plays in the resort economy.
Then there are the trade exchanges, held this year at Dobson Ice Arena. One such exchange will connect travel wholesalers with accommodation and travel providers – lodges, resorts and airlines. Another session connects travel buyers with suppliers.
While the sessions focus on groups, Vlaar said the exchanges have also set up packages that can be offered to individual travelers.
Vail Chamber & Business Association executive director Alison Wadey said bringing the symposium back to Vail was a big deal, for several reasons.
There is of course the possibility of showing Vail to the industry.
“But we haven’t had a band like this in over two years,” Wadey said. Group activities are a key part of Vail Valley activities, especially during shoulder seasons and mid-week peak periods. That activity hasn’t returned with the strength of individual trips, but Wadey said that’s changing.
“The groups’ appetite for travel is back, in a big way,” she said.
The symposium will also slightly overlap with this year’s Taste of Vail events.
“We’re going to have a nice little (work) week,” she said. It will be good because the last week of March was “very slow”, added Wadey.
The Vail-based business group also strives to attract attendees to businesses around town in their spare time. Wadey said the city of Vail has implemented a “corporate passport,” in which a symposium attendee can obtain stamps for each business visited. Those who submit a full card will receive gift certificates redeemable on subsequent visits.
“It’s kind of a perfect storm of opportunity,” said Chris Romer, president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership. Between the station itself and Vail’s sustainability and stewardship efforts, Romer said it’s an opportunity to solidify Vail’s position as an industry leader.
Shaw said the symposium team can’t wait to get back to Vail.
“Our team conducted a site visit in September (of 2021),” Shaw said. “We are really looking forward to coming.”