With the program set to expire at the end of March, Whistler officials were happy to hear that Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding has been renewed through 2019.
"It's terrific news. The RMI program is very important for us in hosting the 3 million visitors that we get every year and keeping our programming fresh, so it's really a foundational component," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
The news came by way of an email from Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture Lisa Beare.
"She said that she was pleased to let us know that we would be receiving the RMI funding for 2018/19, and then she said that she would be in touch with us over the coming weeks to talk about the program thereafter," Wilhelm-Morden said, adding that it's unclear what may lie ahead for the program past 2019.
Having a long-term commitment from the province would be helpful for resort communities in B.C.—a fact the RMOW made clear in recent meetings with government ministers.
"It's the uncertainty of the program which is very problematic for us, because of course we're planning budgets, we're entering into multi-year commitments, and so to only have it roll over year to year ... it raises issues," the mayor said.
No dollar amount has been tied to the funding for 2018/19 at this time.
Whistler received $6.68 million in RMI funding in 2017.
The 2018 Festivals, Events and Animation program—typically revealed in February—is expected to be presented to council this spring, though no date has been set yet.
Along with Whistler, the 13 other communities that receive RMI funding are: the City of Fernie; the Town of Golden; the Village of Harrison Hot Springs; the District of Invermere; the City of Kimberley; the Town of Osoyoos; the Village of Radium Hot Springs; the City of Revelstoke; the City of Rossland; the Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality; the District of Tofino; the District of Ucluelet; and the Village of Valemount.
The program—intended to assist small, tourism-based municipalities to support and increase visitation—has doled out more than $108 million in funding since 2006.
In 2016, the 14 communities released a report outlining the benefits of the program.
Some key findings from the report: Tourism spending in the 14 RMI communities grew by just over 38 per cent from 2011 to 2015; the rest of the province grew just 20 per cent.
The accommodation revenues collected in those communities grew 42 per cent (the rest of the province grew 29 per cent).
The 14 RMI communities welcome 5.34 million visitors every year—105 visitors for every local resident.
Though the 14 RMI communities have only one per cent of the total provincial population, they collectively contribute 29 per cent of the taxes contributed to the province by the tourism sector ($265 million annually), 30 per cent of the province's tourism export revenues ($1.97 billion annually), and 16 per cent of provincial tourism employment (21,375 jobs).