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Free concerts get mixed reviews

Community at odds as to whether Whistler Presents is a boon or a bane

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The RMOW is now consulting with 10 entertainment industry experts, as well as 10 stakeholders from within the community, to gather new ideas and execute the 2012 Whistler Presents edition based on the lessons learned in 2011. They're looking to book musical acts that will appeal to a variety of tastes and attract incremental visits to the resort under the assumption that this will translate to incremental overnight hotel bookings.

Tourism Whistler's (TW) data on just how influential the FE&A program has been in terms of visitor satisfaction or on visitor room nights won't be available until December, but TW's senior manager of communications, Breton Murphy, said the 2011 summer has been in the top three on record in terms of visitors, noting anecdotally that visitor feedback to FE&A and Whistler Presents has been very positive.

"There's no doubt that it was a major contributor to adding to the vibe of the animation in the village this summer, and no doubt has had a positive impact on visitor experience this summer," said Murphy. "Now we're just trying to determine to what degree, and to what degree it may have impacted overnight bookings."

He added, "What will be important moving forward is what will be the best mix and the best fit for the village and for the visitors that will have the best results for us in terms of driving visitors."

But Melamed said that while Whistler Presents might drive room nights, it's really about creating that value add for residents, visitors and families who have come to almost expect something to be happening in Whistler.

In this regard, Melamed said it's been a "tremendous success."

But he carefully added, "The caveat I would have is this is year one. We need to do a lessons learned and understand how we would move forward to build on this success."

But Milner's not convinced. He points to the Whistler Film Festival - with which he admits he has a conflict of interest because his wife, Jane, is the festival's director of development - brings in measurable results, about $10 million in business, to the town.

"But if you pay Tom Cochrane to come for one evening, what does that get you? I don't see anything, to be honest," he said.