Opinion » Editorial


Trying to balance the resort and the community (resort fit for a king, but for the average Brit?) By all accounts the recent visit to Vancouver and Whistler of Prince Charles and his sons was an unqualified success. The British press have called the trip a turning point for Prince William, after teenage girls swooned over him in Vancouver. The Royals were left alone during their private vacation in Whistler and, with fans, media and the weather co-operating, were permitted to experience and see much of what Whistler has to offer. And of course Whistler basked in the attention the Royals brought to our fair town. According to the WRA, the exposure for the resort went far beyond any other event ever held in Whistler. As the WRA’s media relations department put it, we’ve gone from the sports page to the front page, so that even dock workers in Liverpool and little old ladies in Devon have now heard of Whistler and likely seen images of us on the telly. What more could we want? Britain is one of Whistler’s fastest growing foreign markets. The United Kingdom accounted for nearly 10 per cent of visitors — and 17.2 per cent of destination room nights — last winter, behind only Canada and the United States and closing in on Japan. And they’re coming in the summer, too. The number of U.K. visitors increased 647 percent between 1992 and 1996, and accounted for 12 per cent of destination room nights two summers ago. The only foreseeable problem in all this is that many British skiers travel in tour groups and a lot of them like to stay in chalets, with chalet girls doing all the cooking, shopping and cleaning. That’s the type of accommodation Whistler has finally decided to regulate, starting with enforcement of existing bylaws which make most of them illegal. There may be some mechanism introduced which will allow chalets to be legalized, but the situation won’t be as simple and wide open as it is now. In responding to the concerns of many members of the community, the Whistler council has determined that there will likely be fewer chalets and they will be more closely controlled. Some tour operators and chalet owners have indicated they may take legal action, or they may abandon Whistler all together. Whistler hopes to convince Brits to continue coming here, but to stay in some type of accommodation other than chalets or villas — there is a surplus of hotel rooms. Ironically, this comes shortly after British Airways announced it is going to begin daily non-stop flights between London and Denver June 1. The U.K. is already Colorado resorts’ top international market, attracting between 45,000 and 50,000 skiers and boarders last winter. The state’s ski area marketing arm, Colorado Ski Country USA, feels it can double those numbers. So while things couldn’t have gone much better for Whistler and the Royals last week, it isn’t a given that Brits will follow their future kings to Whistler.

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