Mountain Travel Symposium, the SXSW for the ski industry, returns to Keystone | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Travel Symposium, the SXSW for the ski industry, returns to Keystone

Touted as the "most important ski industry event in the world," the Mountain Travel Symposium, will be hosted at the Keystone Conference Center this year. The annual gathering of mountain travel, tourism and tech experts is expected to bring in about 1,200 people from 37 different countries.

"What we're doing, we're trying to bring the world of mountain destinations all under one roof," executive director Michael Pierson said. "MTS is the only conference we know of in the entire world that has the comprehensive scale we do. We're not just focusing on marketing and sales. We're focusing on the entire dynamic of winter vacations, the summer vacation experience and how technology can help."

This year's forums will feature speakers from Vail Resorts, Steamboat and Switzerland Tourism, as well as travel research company Phocuswright, and vacation rental sites HomeAway and Airbnb to name a few.

Keynote speaker Jeff Linkner, founder and CEO of four tech companies and bestselling author, will kick off the event. Presentations cover a wide spectrum of topics, including ways to drive visitors during the summer season, a debate on direct bookings vs. third-party distribution and an analysis of international lodging data.

"It's networking business, education and socialization. It's nonstop," Pierson added. "It's literally 8 a.m. till midnight."

The event will also include three different exchanges to connect suppliers and wholesalers with potential buyers.

"It's total one-stop shopping," he said. "Everything from optimizing websites and handling social media to creative agencies. The whole nine yards."

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

The symposium first started 41 years ago, as a casual get-together between a few-dozen resort managers.

"It actually started with a bunch of marketing directors at the various Colorado resorts sitting around a bar in the airport," Pierson said. "They said, 'Wouldn't it be great if we could get together at the end of the season, talk a little bit, and find out how everything went?'"

Since then, the conference has expanded across the globe, with 15,000 possible appointments throughout the three-day exchanges, 150 wholesalers and 143 ski clubs, to name a few.

"MTS has now become, from a place where 10-12 people sat around with an idea, to 1,200-plus people," Pierson added. "It's a very efficient, cost-effective way to do business. It sets the tone for the year."

The conference has been hosted at Keystone twice in the past and will return again for April 3-9 next week. In previous years, the conference has been hosted at other western resorts including Whistler, Beaver Creek, Vail, Banff and Lake Tahoe.

"There are a limited number of resorts that can host MTS because of its size," Pierson said. "In Keystone's case, they have the biggest and, quite honestly, the best conference facilities anywhere in the Rocky Mountains."

Guests will arrive starting Sunday morning, and the exchanges will take place Sunday, Monday and Tuesday afternoon. The educational portion of the conference, the forums, will be hosted throughout Wednesday and Thursday morning. Friday and Saturday will feature more exchanges for those who choose to attend. Registration is open until the event close; registration for the full week is $3,795 per person, while registration for the forum only is $695 per person. For more information, visit http://www.mtntrvl.com/register.