MANCHESTER - Next week, the tourism industry will converge on Manchester. On April 2 and 3, The Equinox Resort will host the Vermont Tourism Industry Conference. The conference is an annual event, which started in 1983.

Gerry McFarland, director of sales and marketing said the Equinox is proud to be hosting the conference.

"It's a great honor to be selected and an opportunity for all our industry partners to come together," he said.

Christine Cecchetti, the co-chairwoman of the event, said the conference is open to anyone with a connection to tourism in the state, from inns to recreation companies.

"The conference has the absolute best networking and information you can learn from colleagues," she said.

On April 1, there will be a welcome reception at the Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce, hosted with the Vermont Gay Tourism Association. Cecchetti said it is nice when the host community becomes involved in welcoming the conference.

While there are themes that often emerge from such conferences, there is not a set theme in place for this one, she said.

"Social media [is a theme] relevant to today's marketplace and partnering is a theme," she said. "It's really just the different aspects of the hospitality field." Information sessions with featured speakers will range from social media and marketing to customer service presentations.


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Cecchetti said one of the best parts of the networking opportunities the conference offers is the ability to talk to others in the industry about what was said in the sessions. "It's the conversations...the relationships that you build networking, you can't put a price on that," she said. "You're further enhancing [your experience] and during the conversations [after the sessions] you go home with a new approach."

Along with the sessions and networking, the conference also gives out awards to honor excellence in the tourism industry. Vicky Tebbetts, co-chairwoman of the conference, said there are two awards given at the conference: Travel person of the year and the SMART award, which stands for social media, art, recreation and tourism. The awards are voted on by the board of directors, conference planning committee and in some cases, past award winners.

"Travel person of the year is the most prestigious, its been awarded for about 30 years...it's usually a surprise," she said. "The winner has represented the industry for a long time, really an icon, has had an impact statewide."

This tourism professional has gone above and beyond their daily duties of the job, Tebbets said.

The SMART award is newer, only given out for the first time last year. Previously an award just for marketing plan, this now integrates the digital aspects of marketing and tourism, she said.

"It's a new generation of the award," Tebbets said.