Top Company 2014: Tourism/Hospitality
Tourism / Hospitality winner: RMC (Watch a video about RMC.)
RMC, formerly Rocky Mountain Connections, did not slow down operations during the most recent economic recession. Even though some meeting and travel planner customers canceled trips and events, the Aspen-based destination management and special events company continued making investments.
“My vision was to grow the company,” says owner and CEO Shawn Thomson-Palermo. “We kept our people employed. No furloughs, no pay cuts, and I brought in more management.” RMC opened more regional offices, including its latest, in Austin, Texas, in June, and now has a total of eight offices nationwide, including Aspen, Colorado Springs, Denver, Vail, and Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Park City, Utah; and Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev.
Privately owned RMC works with corporate travel programs and event planners to create packages for sales events, team-building activities and other meetings at luxury resorts. The concept works because businesspeople still want to meet each other in person, Thomson-Palermo says, rather than rely on webinars or other online alternatives.
Rocky Mountain Connections was founded in 1989, and in 2011 the company changed its name to better reflect its Western geography. RMC now stands for Resorts, Mountains & Cities. Earlier this year RMC created a new department, national accounts, and plans to open three more regional offices by early next year.
In addition to growth, RMC has won awards. In 2013 Special Events magazine named RMC a Top 25 Destination Management Company, or DMC. What’s more, Thomson-Palermo says, is that RMC helps boost the local economy. “We are personally responsible for bringing millions of dollars into our state, via the clients that come in,” she says.
RMC also supports charities. She estimates that the company has donated more than $2 million over 25 years. RMC sponsors Trashmasters International, an Aspen golf tournament that funds college scholarships.
Thomson-Palermo, who has led the company since 1991, says 2014 is shaping up to be another successful year. She has been seeing an important, positive indicator: Before, event planners would plan a few months in advance; now they are booking events for each of the next three or four years. “The volume and type of business dollars that are coming into the state, and the types of meetings that are being planned, indicate a strong three years,” she says. “We are seeing a lot of bookings now for multi-year contracts.” RMC manages 300 to 350 corporate programs a year.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, RMC plans a celebration in Aspen this December. “We are fortunate to be in Colorado doing business,” Thomson-Palermo says. “It’s the best state there is.”
Christopherson Business Travel
Christopherson Business Travel is an independently owned leader in intelligent business travel management, online travel tools and business travel resources. It is the largest travel agency in the Rocky Mountain region, the 11th largest agency in the nation and a certified woman-owned corporation. In 2013, Christopherson created AirPortal 360 Mobile, the industry’s first comprehensive mobile app designed to provide corporate travel managers with the ability to manage their company’s travel program while on the go. Another major investment in 2013 was the acquisition of All Seasons Travel, headquartered in Alabama. Christopherson has continued its partnership with CHOICE Humanitarian, a nonprofit working to end extreme poverty.
Inspirato with American Express
Inspirato with American Express is a private club that provides members exclusive access to its Signature Collection of luxury vacation homes, experiences and VIP offerings around the world. Launched in 2011, Inspirato is now the largest destination club in the world in terms of both number of vacation options and number of members (nearly 8,000). It is the luxury vacation solution for travelers seeking an alternative to hotels, resorts and online villa rentals. In 2013 the company announced a partnership with American Express and the club’s new name, Inspirato with American Express. Inspirato was co-founded by brothers Brent and Brad Handler, pioneers in the destination-club industry who launched Exclusive Resorts in 2002 and then set out to improve on the model with Inspirato by providing private vacation homes combined with the personalized service of high-end resorts without the six-figure upfront fees.