Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chamonix, International Mountain Symposium & La Valle Blanche

Duty called this week as I went back to Chamonix France for the first time in decades. The event I attended was the International Mountain Symposium a gathering of 300 mountain travel executives, tourism and resort operators from across Europe, with a few from North America sprinkled into the mix. I had been invited to participate as a speaker on a panel presented by PhocusWright and run by Bruce Rosard. The topic was Social Media with a focus on what to do, case studies of examples of how companies are effectively using various elements of social media in strategies that are working and producing results.

The conference dedicated itself to trends in the larger resort and travel marketplace with a focus on how to manage and respond to the current effects of the global financial crisis that is still impacting economies and industries such as tourism and travel. It was a diverse audience that included different companies showing off their innovations as it pertains to travel and established new travel players that have emerged from the digital revolution that is still shaping and impacting the business landscape. Companies like Travel Zoo, Trip Advisor, EasyJet, our own company flaik each presented how their new approaches to the market are impacting positive results for companies embracing new approaches to the market.

Accommodations: The event booked me into The Mont Blanc Hotel, which was a block from town center and easy access to anything I wanted to do or needed for the trip. An old world hotel with comfort, charm and a dedicated and pleasant staff during my stay, was truly a delight. The last day of my trip I had planned a full day ski and tour of the Le Vallee Blanche with a 6 PM shuttle to Geneva for my return flight. The Hotel was gracious in providing not only storage for my bags, but a room with a shower to freshen up and get myself ready for the journey. The hotel staff were all pleasant, helpful and making sure my stay was enjoyable. They did it with a smile on the face and in a fashion The Hotel Mont Blanc will be high on my list of places to stay when returning.

Overall trip observation’s: Several things on this trip to France jumped out at me. The French were much more pleasant and engaging than 25 years ago during my first trip to France. The willingness to try and speak English, as my French is very limited and poor, was evident everywhere and with a smile. Local markets and shops were pleased to help and see me a spending tourist. The significantly devalued dollar made this so much more expensive than past trips to Europe. It was a point of pain that as the week went on you found yourself simply ignoring it so as to not feel too much pain. That being said I still needed to purchase and bring back souvenir books, chocolate, cheese and French gourmet sausages. The food and culinary treats are always a pleasure in France. Town was quiet as has been the case form speaking to locals regarding the last 2 years. Snow is and has been great with cold temperatures ensuring excellent skiing and riding conditions. Making connections out of Geneva was incredibly easy. When searching Google for shuttles from the Geneva airport to Chamonix I found several choices but after reviewing various options and sites I settled on Chamonix Express. They had many regular scheduled trips back and forth and an easy to use booking engine. At 25 Euros costs seemed reasonable and the service proved to be punctual and professional coming and going. The ease of online researching of trips and services makes travel abroad so much easier while eliminating questions and uncertainty.

Good pub with lively British clientele was La Terrace in the center of town, right behind the statue

Skiing La Valle Blanche: While I sure wish I could have gotten more than one day on the mountain, this is a long way to come for one day, but it was a work trip not a holiday.