Global businesses, startups collide at Mountain Travel Symposium |

Global businesses, startups collide at Mountain Travel Symposium

Travel professionals from across the world are attending Keystone's Mountain Travel Symposium, a weeklong meeting of the minds for resort executives, travel startups and other mountain-centric industries.
Elise Reuter / |

Hundreds of travel professionals representing ski resorts, suppliers and tech startups filled the ballrooms at the Keystone Conference Center on Tuesday. This year’s Mountain Travel Symposium brought together a mix of seasoned executives from all over the world, as well as a few fresh faces to the industry.

“It’s an opportunity for the worldwide community of mountain destination tourism professionals to get together,” MTS executive director Michael Pierson said. “It’s the only time that you really have a chance to see all these different types of companies and organizations.”

The weeklong symposium, which he described as a “must-attend event,” will host about 1,200 attendees from more than 30 different countries through Saturday, April 9. Businesses covering the spectrum of the travel industry will attend the conference throughout the week, including ski resorts, lodging, transportation, booking and marketing.

Longtime attendees and Hertz were at Tuesday’s Mountain Marketplace, which featured vendors from across the globe.

“We come every year,” said Rob Webb, chief product officer for Liftopia, a San Francisco-based ski ticket sales site. “All of the major players in the mountain travel area are here, from resorts to suppliers. … We’re primarily here to expand our relationship with resorts in North America.”

He added that Liftopia hoped to develop partnerships with other providers at the conference to make it easier for customers to plan other aspects of their ski trip, including housing and travel.

“It’s a complex vacation to come to Keystone or any other ski area,” he added.

SkiPodz, a new startup operating in Vail and Beaver Creek, is looking for ways to simplify the guest experience through shipping. Instead of lugging ski equipment through the airport and into a rental car, the company ships guests’ equipment (skis, helmets, boots — the works) directly to their hotel or condo.

“I was thinking there has to be a better way,” founder and CEO Brandon Ford said. “We ship (the container) to your apartment, load it up and FedEx delivers it to wherever you’re staying.”

Several vacation rental companies, including HomeAway and Airbnb, were also present throughout Tuesday afternoon, in hopes of connecting with hospitality providers at mountain destinations and homeowners looking to rent short-term.

Joe Joyce, a digital marketing consultant with digital marketing agency Bluetent, said about half of all searches for short-term rentals are from mobile devices.

“We’re moving to online booking for mobile devices,” he said.

Bluetent builds integrative websites, especially targeted at vacation rental management companies, which make up just over half of all online bookings.

“It’s important to have your own site performing for you,” he added, noting that using other booking sites adds a 10- to 20-percent fee, which is often subtracted from vacation rental management companies’ commissions.

Later in the week, conference members will have the option of attending several workshops, debates and informational sessions throughout Wednesday and Thursday. The conference will come to a close on Saturday, with a few additional opportunities for travel businesses and suppliers to meet throughout the week.

“It is a great honor to host the Mountain Travel Symposium, and mountain travel industry professionals from around the world, here at Keystone again,” Thomas Kelsey, sales director for Keystone Resort and Conference Center, said in an email. “The event offers an incredible opportunity to connect and build relationships within the mountain travel community, as well as a great opportunity to show MTS guests what Keystone is all about.”

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