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B.C. Resort Task Force releases tourism recommendations

A provincial tourism advisory group that included several community leaders from Squamish and has released a report recommending ways of improving resort development and creating jobs in B.C.

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Minister for Resort Development Sandy Santori led the Resort Task Force Advisory Group, which was appointed to recommend ways the province could "enhance resort development and partnerships in B.C." as well as "identify and eliminate barriers to resort development, creation and expansion".

Jim Godfrey from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Lee Malleau from Squamish council and Chief Gibby Jacob from the Squamish Nation were all in the advisory group.

The 74-page report covers a raft of issues including employee housing, transportation and the opportunities – as well as some of the weaknesses – the tourism sector in B.C. is facing.

The report was developed largely due to Premier Gordon Campbell’s recent challenge to the tourism industry to double revenues within 10 years.

According to the report, "With B.C.’s successful bid for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, this goal is in sight but work remains to be done.

"To help our resorts and resort communities realize their full potential, in 2003 Premier Campbell announced a new initiative, the BC Resort Task Force."

The report lists some of B.C.’s strengths as its "proximity to the U.S." and the fact that there are still "significant amounts" of the market that remain "untapped".

One of the Resort Task Force’s chief mandates was to find ways of cutting through red-tape with regards to planning and development and many of these issues feature heavily in the "weaknesses" section of B.C.’s resort structure.

Whistler is prominent in the report and many of the recommendations reflect issues that Whistler’s stakeholders have been discussing for several years.

Godfrey, who is the municipalities’ chief administrator, said the report recognizes Whistler as a "success story".

"Tourism is a very important part of our economy and resorts are certainly a very important part of that economy, and what the province has been trying to do with this task force is attempt to build on that success," said Godfrey.

"They’re trying to say, ‘a lot of really good things are happening and how do we continue that and how do we make it better’.

"I think Whistler is recognized as a success story but it’s also recognized that every community and every resort is different.

"What’s also recognized in this process is that every community is unique and every community should focus on its attributes."

Godfrey said he was confident the province would use the recommendations in the report if, and when, a new B.C. Resort Strategy is drafted.

"My hope from being involved in this is that they now have recommendations from the task force, but those will now have to put that in a strategy and that’s going to be a considerable amount of work," he said.

"But the province through the whole process has been very positive and very sincere."

Godfrey indicated that some of the most important recommendations centred on transportation and employee housing.

"The message that came forward from not only the task force, but from the Ministers who have toured around the province is that transportation is key to success.

"If you take a look at the recommendations that are there they’ve outlined a number of transportation improvements, from big things such as major highway improvements and airport expansions, to small things which also make a big difference like highway signage.

"And what they’re recognizing is that if you’re going to have a resort that’s going to be successful, part of that is going to put a strain on affordability and the need for employee housing is going to have to be addressed."

The full report can be read at: http://srmwww.gov.bc.ca/resortdev/rtf_report.html.

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