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Chamber survey responses down, but approval rating high

Over 70 per cent of members polled give the highest marks

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Whistler Chamber of Commerce lost almost half the voices it got last year for the 2013 Membership Survey into business and commerce at the resort.

Only 66 of the chamber's 711 members took part in the 2013 survey, which ran in June and July.

The chair of the board for the chamber, Sue Adams, said this was because the timing of the survey this year was adjusted in order to incorporate the results into their strategic planning session.

This is much lower than 2012 survey participation numbers, when 122 businesses out of a membership at the time of 752 took part. The annual survey started in 2003.

"The survey was open over the July long weekend and for a shorter period of time. We think this is likely the reason for the decreased response rate. Next year, we plan to keep the survey open for a longer period," Adams said in an email.

When asked if she was concerned with having a response rate under 10 per cent from members, she added that the survey's results are analyzed combined with monthly feedback from the chamber's 12@12 networking sessions, along with social media commentary and ongoing polling and contact with members.

All of this together "enables us to build on significant insights regarding what matters most to our members and what the key issues specific to the Whistler business environment are," Adams said.

In terms of how satisfied participating members were with the chamber, there was good news in the survey. When businesses were asked how likely they would be to recommend Whistler Chamber memberships to other businesses, 70.8 per cent gave it a high approval rating of eight, nine or 10 out of 10.

The Whistler Chamber is currently in the process of hiring a replacement for former president and CEO Fiona Famulak, who left at the end of July. Adams said they had a shortlist of potential replacements and "expect to make an announcement in the coming weeks."

She said: "The new CEO will be leading these efforts to review, analyze and action the chamber response to the survey while also drawing on key insights through the variety of communications channels that our members utilize."

In the survey, the most popular chamber programs and services included the Whistler Spirit Pass Program, educational and training opportunities, networking events, advocacy work on behalf of local business and enhanced reputation by being chamber members.

In terms of value for money, when members were asked how satisfied they were with the fees they pay to the chamber, 20 per cent said they were very satisfied, 40 per cent said they were satisfied, 26.2 per cent said they were somewhat satisfied. 7.7 per cent said they were not satisfied, and 6.2 per cent said they had no opinion.

The responses to key questions that were put to members were also highlighted in the survey results.

When asked to name Whistler's strengths as a place to do business, respondents pointed to international high net-worth clientele; worldwide recognition and tourism leader status; a supportive and talented community; quality of life; a busy events calendar; close proximity to Vancouver and YVR; and the pedestrian village layout.

Barriers to doing business in Whistler included decreased visitors and inconsistent traffic volumes during the shoulder seasons; high costs of rents and taxes, real estate, living expenses, food and shipping; networking challenges for new people; municipal bureaucracy/regulations and lack of signage; unstable economy; cost of employee turnover; unrealistic expectations from visitors and lack of loyalty to local businesses/competition.

Asked to provide examples of what additional programs and services the chamber should pursue, participants said: increase Whistler's profile in other markets; create more networking opportunities, smaller-scale networking; more training courses such as social media, management, resort-specific training, construction and trades; acting as a stronger voice for land planning issues like parking; creating a Buy Local program; and adding Whistler facts and figures to the chamber website.

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