Chateau's addition takes Whistler to new convention heights By Chris Woodall By nearly doubling in size, Chateau Whistler moves into a higher plateau in the high money convention business. The new 12,000 square foot ballroom, that can handle groups up to 1,200, plus the additional 221 luxury suites and rooms, means Whistler's largest hotel can beckon to much larger convention groups wanting to stay under one roof. "We built the expansion because over the past few years we have lost business because we can't house all the people," explains Chateau general manager Dave Roberts. "Group planners don't want their people split," he says about meetings held in the voluminous Whistler Convention Centre, but the guests then have to wander all over town to get to their hotel rooms. The expansion tops up what the Chateau already offers the convention industry with its current 342 rooms and two ballrooms — the 610-seat Frontenac Room and the 240-seat Empress Room. The extra space means the Chateau can confidently bid for convention visits from, for example, national and international medical and insurance associations, or service clubs such as Rotary or the Shriners. The rooms are due for completion by August, with the ballroom to be ready by late September. The official opening — there are several other renovations going on, too — will be in December. "We feel we can bring some very significant group sizes with obvious benefits to all of Whistler," Roberts says of what it all means for his hotel and the resort in general. The expansion includes a 500-person capacity rooftop landscaped garden area open to the stars that comes complete with a wedding chapel and two gazebos housing gas barbecues. Some hospitality suites open right onto the rooftop patio. One convention the Chateau has its eyes on is the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM). The last time it stayed in Whistler (1994), conventioneers were at the conference centre. The overflow had to be accommodated in a white circus tent pitched on the parking lot next door. Convention business accounts for about 40 per cent of the Chateau's bottom line, says director of public relations Laura Fairweather as she leads a hard hat tour of the work in progress. Ducking under wires and dodging construction gangs, Fairweather points out the different suites in the new wing. Many of these will cater to the high-end business traveller who's making a stop at Whistler part of his or her tour. "If we have a convention going on, we don't want our individual guests feeling lost in the crowd, so we'll have a private check-in for this wing, a 40-seat private lounge and public areas that will be separate from the convention part of the hotel," Fairweather explains. Fifty-three Entree Gold rooms will have fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs. All the guest rooms will have data ports and in-room safes. The hotel is also going to offer a hi-tech business centre operated by a company like Sharp or Xerox so guests can have the best in office communications at their beck and call. "Whistler is the ideal setting for the corporate meeting," says the hotel's general manager. "We aim to provide the highest level of service and facilities to meet that demand."