One of the largest annual tourism gatherings in the state, the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference, will be coming to Snowmass Village in 2020. The town was announced as next year’s host at this year’s GovCon, which wrapped up Oct. 1 in Denver.
It will be the first time in the Roaring Fork Valley for GovCon since Snowmass hosted the event in 2010 at what was then the Silvertree Hotel. A decade later, the Silvertree is now the Westin Snowmass Resort, and it’ll be playing host once again, with the bulk of the events and seminars to be held at the adjacent Snowmass Conference Center.
The announcement that Snowmass’s proposal was selected means great exposure for a town that is markedly different than the one that greeted the state’s tourism professionals in 2010, when Base Village and the Limelight Hotel Snowmass were years from being built.
“What we’re highlighting now versus what they experienced in the past — and all the exciting things going on with Base Village, and the addition of the Limelight — just the presence of what’s here is huge for us,” said Mark Scheller, group sales director for Snowmass Tourism. “It’s a great opportunity for us to have people in the tourism industry here because they really become salespeople for us.”
The winning bid means a sizable crowd of influential people will be coming to town next September. The last GovCon in Snowmass reserved a block of 500 hotel rooms for the three-day conference, and two years ago, 724 rooms were set aside in Vail when it played host. Scheller said he expects the room count next year to be at least 500.
Submitted around this time last year, the proposal was the result of a two-month-long effort spearheaded by Snowmass Tourism’s national sales manager, Jim O’Leary, along with Scheller and others. It was chosen as the winner after a site visit by a group from the Colorado Tourism Office last spring.
“We love Snowmass,” said Deb Brannon, whose company, Altitude Events, produces GovCon each year. “The [state tourism office] tries to give equal opportunity around the state to host GovCon, and it was definitely time to bring it back to Snowmass.”
Snowmass Tourism Director Rose Abello led a delegation from Snowmass at GovCon in Denver and accepted the honor on behalf of the town. It was a trip for Abello and her crew that was equal parts ceremonial and instructive, as the talks and presentations gave them a good idea of what the hot topics are in tourism and what they can expect as hosts next year.
“One of the biggest things that everybody is focused on statewide is sustainability,” Scheller said. “The themes of a lot of the discussions and presentations were, ‘What are we doing with tourism and the abundance of people we’re trying to attract? How does that merge with how it affects our environment and how it affects our locale?’”
It’s a concern that jibes quite well with the overall environmental missions of Snowmass Village and the Aspen Skiing Co., which is sure to have a large presence at next year’s GovCon, and it’s at the forefront of the way the conference has been conducted in recent years.
“A huge initiative of ours has been to be as zero-waste as possible,” said Brannon, who noted measures like composting or donating leftover food, using reusable Silipint cups and cutting back on handouts at presentations. “We don’t have any bottles of water. We don’t have anything that would be thrown away — any cups, any waste — we want to eliminate that. We try to be very cognizant of having as little waste as possible throughout GovCon.”
The exact dates for next year’s conference haven’t been set yet, but when they are, expect Snowmass to dive head first into preparations to make sure the town creates as big a splash as possible when all eyes are on it.
“We’re going to bring in all of the supporting stakeholders and the folks here and give everybody the opportunity to contribute. We need to set the bar high because the bar’s been set high for us,” Scheller said. “We have such a great story to tell in the last couple of years with what has developed here and what has transpired and where we’re going. We do great things here, and this is an opportunity to share our growth and the promises we’ve made that are coming to fruition."