By Vivian Moreau
London Drugs is coming to town. And not just to open a store but for a two-part conference at the Telus Conference Centre and Fairmont Chateau Whistler that will attract 1,000 participants from Sept. 30 to Oct. 14.
The first conference, to Oct. 7, will focus on high tech audio-visual gear and computers. The second conference, from Oct. 9 to 14, highlights health and beauty products.
The company’s president said the conference is not only a chance for London Drugs’ staff to be introduced to suppliers’ new product lines but is also an opportunity for out of area suppliers to get to know Whistler.
“It’s important corporately that they get some of that special magic of Whistler,” said Wynne Powell. “If the vendors feel good about the experience they help us achieve even better success. And it exposes Whistler to a number of visitors that would not necessarily come but once they see it will often return for their own personal vacations.”
London Drugs’ conference, which has booked 4,000 room nights in Whistler over two weeks, is just one this summer that has contributed to a 37 per cent increase in group bookings to Whistler compared to 2005. July saw the largest conference this year with U.S.-based Oracle Software booking 8,454 room nights in the village.
July was a record month for Whistler hotel room bookings, up 27 per cent over the same month in 2005 and 11 per cent higher than July, 2000, the previous all time high. Tourism Whistler expects the final tally for summer 2006 to be 14 per cent above 2005.
Powell, who has been with the company for 24 years, says the conference isn’t just about educating staff about new products, it’s also about celebrating long term staff service. London Drugs has one of the lowest staff turnovers of major Canadian retailers and Powell said one event will be a retirement party for a staffer who’s been with the Vancouver-based company for 41 years.
“There are so many people that have over 20 years or more with London Drugs we have trouble getting them in the conference to have dinner at one time,” he said.
London Drugs has been holding its annual conference in Whistler for almost 10 years. Powell says it’s Whistler’s affordability and welcoming attitude that keeps the company coming back.
“Being a family company we feel very comfortable in Whistler,” Powell said. “The community has always been friendly to our group.”