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Municipal investments pay off

Good news from resort partners, local entrepreneurs

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It was payback time for the municipality Monday night as councillors and staff listened to several success stories in which they had a helping hand.

From their investments in B.C./Canada House at the Torino Olympic Games to their sanctioning of the Hydro Bronc tours on Fitzsimmons Creek this summer, the municipality has played a role, whether big or small.

The presentations were an attempt, said Mayor Ken Melamed, to communicate some of the good news stories in Whistler. And the successes are an indication of strong partnerships in the resort.

“It’s great that we’re hearing such good economic news but I think it’s part of everybody’s refocus on trying to get Whistler back (on track),” he said this week.

“We’re part of a group effort.”

Tourism Whistler President Barrett Fisher kicked off the good news presentations, highlighting the return on the municipality’s financial investments in the organization.

The $125,000 in municipal funding that went into the B.C./Canada House in Torino helped create enormous success and awareness of Whistler, said Fisher. The six Whistler après nights were the hot ticket in Torino and 100,000 visitors walked through the house in 60 days.

The municipality, under the last council, also invested $250,000 in incremental marketing to Tourism Whistler to grow awareness and bookings and promote Whistler’s good value for money last year in tough times.

The money went into key target markets, such as Ontario and Washington, for the 2005-06 season. Overall those markets grew by 12 per cent, translating to 2,600 room nights in the resort.

Fisher also touched on the success of whistler.com, the locally owned holiday reservations business that was bought by the municipality and Tourism Whistler in February.

Last week saw the busiest day on record at the call centre — and Fisher said they are on track to surpass November’s target.

That good news was followed by more record-breaking statistics from Shauna Hardy-Mishaw of the Whistler Film Festival. The film festival is out-pacing box office numbers, accommodation bookings, and number of festival attendees year over year.

Last June council of the day pledged $50,000 to the festival each year for the next three years. The caveat was festival organizers had to match the funding from other government sources. They surpassed it this year.

“The funds have been invested for the benefit of the community,” said Hardy-Mishaw.

This year’s festival takes place over four days, beginning Nov. 30.

Following the film festival update Eric Ridington, owner of the Hydro Bronc Tours relayed his success of the past summer.

The municipality sanctioned the tours down Fitzsimmons Creek in May, allowing large inflatable cages to bounce their way down the river in a 15-minute trip.

“We had an overwhelmingly positive response,” said Ridington.

The company expects to be 50 per cent busier next summer.

The mayor credits the entrepreneurial spirit of the people in Whistler.

He said: “It speaks to the quality of Whistler’s brand, the ability to add value to the guests that are here and there’s really an unlimited supply of creative ideas that are out there that are going to continue to come before us and we’ll be there to select them as they come.”

Upon reflection, Councillor Gordon McKeever said the meeting highlighted several things: the municipality’s recognition of the need to invest and capitalize on the 2010 Games, its acknowledgement of the dire financial straits facing the resort last year and its willingness to help.

It also shows, he said, an understanding of the economic strategy in the Whistler2020 plan.

He said: “For me the economic strategy is all about diversification, that’s the central theme through it.”

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