“Planners now want to elevate the quality of the group experience,” says Todd Gehrke, who has been the director of group sales at the Telluride Tourism Board since September.
“If a company is going to go to the expense of bringing a group to Telluride, they want to be able to offer exercises in teambuilding, social responsibility and leadership development.”
Business meetings for groups, in other words, are no longer a matter of gathering the team in bucolic location near a golf course (or ski area) and staging a few seminars. It’s more a matter of ensuring that the travel in itself, and the specific destination, and the activities that are offered at that destination, all support business objectives. The younger generation of employees who participate in business retreats and meetings are likewise looking for something more than seminars, Gehrke said: “They’re looking an experience.”
To that end, Gehrke has been working to create five “tracks” for experiential development, building on all that the Telluride region has to offer. The five tracks are “Leadership Development,” “Engagement and Loyalty,” “Collaboration & Relationship Growth,” "Once in a Lifetime Motivators," and “Social Responsibility” – each consisting of a menu of possible group activities. For example, one Leadership program is organized around flyfishing; a Collaboration & Relationship Growth program is a “Box Canyon Amazing Race,” wherein teams compete to solve riddles and overcome challenges; there are adventures in four-wheel drive vehicles and on snowmobiles, artistic workshops, volunteer opportunities, and a historic Telluride GPS orienteering quest. Many of the programs can be facilitated, which is to say guided, but with a businesslike purpose: to support professional group development and personal growth.
The Tourism Board, under the leadership of its new CEO Michael Martelon will introduce the new group sales program to local residents on June 1, in the form of the “I Am Telluride Challenge.”
Local teams of six to eight players are invited to enter the competition, testing their local knowledge “mentally and physically.”
“What we will be staging will be a perfect example of what we are offering to business groups,” Martelon said last week.
By inviting locals to play, Gehrke and Martelon are hoping that locals will not only have a great time, but will develop a keener understanding of how the Tourism Board is reaching out to group planners, and also what it is that business groups will be experiencing while they are here.
Just as a business meeting held in Telluride should be driven by fun, Gehrke emphasized, “it’s the fun element that drives it.”
So pull a team together and enter the challenge by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org (369-2124), yes, just for the fun of it. But Gehrke and Martelon admit they won’t be sorry if participants experience some personal growth along the way, and even more, a renewed appreciation that they, as locals, are an integral part of the group and visitor experience.