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President of Tourism Whistler steps down

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Suzanne Denbak, president and CEO of Tourism Whistler has resigned her position.

"It has been a tremendous five years and I am ready for new challenges," said Denbak.

"At this point I have a number of opportunities I am considering, some in Whistler, some in Vancouver, and some farther afield as well."

Denbak resigned last week. Her resignation was effective immediately.

Barrett Fisher, vice president of marketing strategy and business development, is the acting president of Tourism Whistler. A search is being done by a professional company to find a new president for the organization.

Generally lauded for her fiscal responsibility, Denbak championed the $9 million renovation of the Whistler Conference Centre. It has been on budget and will be completed early. The facility is expected to reopen in early August.

"I am very proud of what we have accomplished together," said Denbak of Tourism Whistler.

"Whether it is just building the team at Tourism Whistler, which in my opinion has never been stronger and stands shoulder to shoulder with the best in the business now, or achieving the financial stability that we were able to gain."

Under Denbak’s tenure Tourism Whistler also elected to partner with Intrawest Golf on a multi-year contract to provide golf expertise for the Whistler Golf Club.

And Tourism Whistler decided to out source its central reservations to Intrawest’s Resort Reservations Network – a decision that is now being looked at again.

"We are saddened by Suzanne’s leaving," said Rick Clare, chair of the Tourism Whistler board of directors.

"But we look forward to the future. We have a very strong capable team in there that is going to show the world how strong our vision really is.

"We thank Suzanne for her five years of leadership and wish her all the best in her future endeavours."

Clare was part of the team that brought Denbak to Whistler from Toronto, where she was executive vice-president and chief operating officer of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. While heading up that organization Denbak, who is a chartered accountant and holds a Bachelor of Commerce and an MBA, piloted a $185 million expansion of the facility.

Tourism Whistler, a marketing and sales organization with 6,000 members, also became more involved in larger issues such as land use plans while Denbak was at the helm.

Some have criticized Denbak's involvement with issues such as the Elaho Valley/Stoltmann Wilderness but she firmly believes Tourism Whistler’s involvement is part and parcel of its mandate.

"With respect to land use planning we must through the Land Resource Management Plan process ensure that there is a land base for tourism interests in this corridor," said Denbak.

"I believe they have strategic importance to the health of the tourism industry in this region.

"… From that perspective, because they are so integral to the product we have to offer in a global market place, they are an important element of marketing and sales. It is the experience we offer through the product that in turn engenders repeat visitation and is simply another form of marketing."

Denbak plans to spend the majority of the summer enjoying Whistler and taking some personal time before she decides which challenge to take on.

"I love Whistler in the summertime," said Denbak.

"It is my favourite season so I am certainly going to make the most of it.

"It has been five years (since I joined Tourism Whistler) and while we have many great accomplishments, there is more work to be done, and I am ready for a new opportunity."

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