Opinion » Editorial

Another year in the rearview mirror

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As we bid farewell to 2014 let's take a little time to remember the year we had and look ahead to 2015.

There is no doubt that the resort's push to be become a four-season destination is well under way.

We saw this summer come in as the busiest on record and that pattern continued right through into fall with October up eight per cent over 2013.

In October, travel to Canada rose 0.7 per cent from September, led by an increase in trips from the United States. Same-day car trips from the U.S. grew 1.6 per cent to 611,000 trips, accounting for much of the increase.

Overseas residents made 449,000 trips to Canada in October, up 0.3 per cent compared with September. This was the 10th monthly increase in 12 months.

In October, five of the top-12 overseas markets recorded increases in travel to Canada. The largest percentage gain in travel was posted by residents of South Korea (+9.1 per cent) with the U.K, France and China remaining the top-three overseas markets for travel to Canada.

Good news indeed though the cymbal clashing of celebration needs to be tempered by the realization that all those visitors are having an impact on municipal services from parks upkeep, to garbage removal, to our water and sewer systems.

As we head into 2015 stakeholder planning continues, as we look to cement newer festivals like Tough Mudder into the calendar, grow mid-week occupancy through other events such as GranFondo, and perhaps even add in new festivals in slower periods (early December?).

What remains clear is that Whistler cannot rest on its laurels if it is to remain competitive with other resorts, even other countries.

Last week news outlets were reporting that Beijing is expected to bid on the 2022 Winter Olympics. Plans for this include a vast expansion to its winter sports infrastructure. There are currently 27 fully functioning ski and skating resorts in the Beijing area alone catering to 2.5 million visitors in 2014.

As Chinese nationals embrace skiing they will no doubt begin to eye travel to other destinations to explore the sport, and Whistler is perfectly poised to take advantage of that thanks to its location so close to Vancouver's international airport.

And while the falling value of the Canadian dollar is not good news to many sectors of the economy it could be good news for Whistler as it entices Canadians to travel at home and U.S. visitors to come to Canada.

The tourism sector continues to grow in B.C. The tourism industry generated $13.9 billion in revenue in 2013 — a 3.6 per cent increase over 2012 and a 44.3 per cent increase from 2003. There are now more than 19,000 tourism businesses throughout B.C., and many of them are small businesses according to the province.

Aboriginal tourist experiences in B.C. generated $43 million in revenue in 2013. Early indicators suggest that this level of spending continued to grow through 2014 and Whistler's Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre plays a part in that success.

"We're working hard to stand out in an increasingly competitive international marketplace," said Naomi Yamamoto, Minister of State for Tourism and Small Business, in a recent email.

"In 2015, we will continue to focus on developing and marketing B.C.'s world-class tourism products, such as touring vacations, city experiences, skiing and snowboarding, conventions and meetings, and outdoor adventure and eco-tourism."

But Whistler isn't just about tourism and business. I would argue that at least part of the success of the resort is due to the amazing community that calls the village home.

Looking back on 2014 also means saying goodbye to friends and mentors who embodied the spirit of Whistler and a toast to them as we head into the New Year should be raised.

Whistler boasts the most amazing cross-section of talented, creative, hard working, inspirational and eclectic people anywhere. We saw them in film, we see them through fundraising efforts all year and we see them in the neighbourhood.

I can't even imagine the good deeds done by our community that we know nothing about. I can't imagine the amazing experiences and life-lessons that members of our community have had.

So let's pat ourselves on our collective back Whistler, as we head into 2015 and celebrate our amazing people and accomplishments.

Happy New Year.

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