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None of the candidates for mayor or council have had much to say about the future of Whistler as a resort in this campaign, largely because they haven’t been asked. Without a doubt, the community is and should be the focus of this election, but it’s worth taking a moment to consider some of the issues that will be facing Whistler as a resort in the next few years. Assuming the ceiling on development remains — and no one at last weekend’s all-candidates forum suggested that it be lifted — most of the physical building of the resort will be completed in the next few years. Then the job will be to make sure all those hotel and condo rooms are occupied. Whistler is a hot item right now as far as ski resorts are concerned, but a drop in the exchange rate, an increase in the overall cost of vacations in Whistler, a couple of poor snow years, fewer direct international flights into Vancouver (or more direct flights, say from Tokyo to Calgary/Banff) and Whistler could be passed by any number of resorts in popularity and the annual fall rankings. Filling those rooms is the Whistler Resort Association’s job, not the municipality’s, but the WRA operates under rules and conditions set by council. The Whistler Golf Course and conference centre for instance, are owned by the municipality, but leased to the WRA for $1 a year. The municipality also collects the majority of the 2 per cent hotel tax in Whistler; the WRA gets about $475,000 of the total, which last year was more than $1.5 million The WRA’s budget has grown steadily in recent years because of the boom in development. Every condo unit and business in Village North must pay WRA fees. But like the municipality’s income from works and services charges, the WRA’s income from memberships will plateau with buildout. How the WRA spends its $8.5 million annual budget is a subject most Whistlerites can offer an opinion on. But compared to the marketing budgets of Vail (now at $20 million annually, following the merger of Vail and Beaver Creek with Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin and Keystone) and other resorts, the WRA has comparatively little ($4.2 million CDN this year) for marketing and competes well. In the face of the recent resort merger and public stock offering which has boosted Vail and Associates in size, range of resorts offered and financial resources, the WRA is going to need more in order to keep Whistler’s name at the forefront and hotel rooms filled. WRA President David Thomson said this summer the association has its eye on the hotel tax for future revenues. But given the public demand for a library, theatre, museum, another recreation centre etc., it’s not likely the municipality will be willing to give up the hotel tax. So, where would future money for marketing the resort come from? Selling the golf course? More corporate sponsorships? A new resort tax? Not issues the council candidates have been faced with yet, but ones the next council will likely have to consider.

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