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Pique n' your interest

Wake up and smell the demographics

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Money is killing this town.

I don’t mean in the spiritual sense, although you could make a pretty good case for that as well.

I’m talking about our local tourism economy, which is still down in the dumps these days. In our blind pursuit of the big bucks, customers with fat wallets, we’re letting the nickels and dimes slip through the cracks.

That’s a problem. Talk to most independent shop owners in Whistler and they’ll tell you that times are tough, that it’s a constant struggle to pay their high commercial rents and property taxes, and to keep their valued employees on the payroll. They can’t afford a resort that’s half-empty. Or half full if you happen to be an optimist.

The list of grievances is long. The post-9/11 economy is still soft and most sensible people are still watching what they spend. Highway construction is a pain in the ass, and could even be a deterrent for some visitors – we don’t really know, we can only guess. Village construction projects are an eyesore, an inconvenience and take away from the overall experience – jackhammers at 8 a.m. aren’t the kind of mountain memories we want people to go home with. At the same time our prices are still too high as a resort, and that’s driving a lot of good customers away.

But for some stupid reason this resort continues to market itself as a playground for wealthy, the miniscule half of one per cent of the market that can actually afford $3 million homes and $250 rounds of golf.

By doing so we put ourselves into competition with every other so-called exclusive resort in the world that’s stupid enough to compete for the same privileged sliver of the general population.

I agree that it’s impressive that some people can afford to blow $3 million on a glorified ski lodge, but is it good for Whistler in the long run if those people only spend a few weeks here a year? Aside from paying property taxes and throwing down the platinum on a few gourmet meals, what kind of contribution do they make to the everyday economy of Whistler?

The fact of the matter is that there just aren’t enough wealthy people out there to fill every hotel room, every restaurant seat and every shop EVERY weekend of the year, which is what it takes for most businesses to make money. The upper middle class was a good demographic for us, but one that doesn’t seem to have as much disposable income as it used.

We’ve aimed high and missed. It seems to me that the logical thing to do know would be to point our arrows at a larger target. To make money we need to fill this place, weekend after weekend, and to do that we have to make it affordable for everyone. Lets go for quantity rather than quality.

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