By Clare Ogilvie
The Whistler Chamber of Commerce and local accommodation providers have banded together and come up with a plan to help job seekers coming to Whistler to find affordable short-term accommodation.
“There has been an outstanding response,” said Tom Horler, who chaired a chamber committee to investigate and come up with a solution to the lack of short-term affordable accommodation.
Concerns about short-term accommodation were first raised at a recent Chamber of Commerce board meeting when members realized that with the closure of the Shoestring Lodge there was very little in the way of affordable accommodation for prospective employees.
“I realized as an employer that almost three-quarters of the applicants I get in the fall give their home address as the Shoestring Lodge,” said Horler.
“Then I realized if that was true for me it must be true for others as well.”
The Shoestring Lodge closed this past April, taking with it 150 affordable beds.
But now, said Horler, people arriving in Whistler will get an information package which will include several options for short-term housing including local bed and breakfasts, the hostel, cabins and Whistler-Blackcomb staff accommodation.
Some are charging as little as $20 a night for shared accommodation and a few of the bed and breakfasts are even throwing in breakfast.
Residents must abide by some house rules including no smoking, no alcohol in common areas, and no drugs.
Horler, who owns the McDonald’s restaurants in Pemberton and Whistler, is also hoping that Greyhound bus drivers will tell passengers about the affordable accommodation and point them to the chamber’s Visitor Information Centre.
The new deal, known as the Shoestring Rate, will run during the fall season.
Organizations involved include Arts Lodge, Bear Trails Inn, Belle Neige, Cedar Springs, Chalet Bambi, Chalet Luise, Golden Dreams, Latitude Five Zero, Hostelling International, Riverside RV Resort and Campground, Southside Lodge, Swiss Cottage, UBC Lodge, Whistler Backpackers, and Whistler-Blackcomb.
The Shoestring Project is providing up to 300 short-term affordable beds.
Horler said this is an important step for the community.
“The guest experience is dependent on good customer service and good customer service is only going to come from the kind of employee who is living in the valley and who is happy,” he said.
“If you come to Whistler and the first taste of the resort is that there is nowhere affordable to stay you could possibly turn away and what that is going to do is affect the guest experience.
“We were afraid, at the chamber, that a lot of people would just step right back on the bus if there was no short term accommodation.”
Meanwhile, Whistler-Blackcomb reported 300 people had signed up for its hiring fair in the first 24 hours of its on-line registration.
“Whistler as a community is facing staffing shortages and it’s important for Whistler-Blackcomb, as well as other employers to realize that what we did to recruit, even a few years ago, just won’t cut it anymore,” said recruitment manager Liza Walli.