The first strongly contested board election in several years drew approximately 70 people to the May 17 Tourism Whistler annual general meeting.
Four director positions were contested this year, including three of the five newly defined positions that came about with the reorganization of the hotel lodging directorships.
Previously, there were two hotel lodging directors, two non-hotel lodging directors, and one single owner lodging director. Following the reorganization there are now three multi-managed lodging directors and two single-managed lodging directors.
Up for election this year were the commercial director, two of the multi-managed lodging positions and one of the single owner lodging directorships.
Rick Clare, who was first elected to the Tourism Whistler board in 1995 and has served as chair of the board since 1997, was re-elected to the commercial director position in a close, three-way election. Clare received 366 votes to Mike Wintemute’s 352. Jay Wahono finished third in balloting with 262 votes.
Four Seasons general manager Scott Taber easily outpolled Jim Allard 1,183 to 271 for the new director position of single-managed lodging-small property.
Previously Allard and Taber were the two hotel lodging directors.
Rick Browning, managing partner of the Blackcomb Lodge, was elected director multi-managed lodging-village. Browning had 149 votes to 90 for Kimberley Hughes, manager of the Delta Village Suites.
The multi-managed lodging-Benchlands director position will be filled by Kerry Wallace, who previously was one of two non-hotel lodging directors. Wallace collected 187 votes to Paul Sanderson’s 54.
A third multi-managed lodging position, multi-managed lodging-other, was not up for election this year. John Richmond, who previously held the second non-hotel lodging position, is the director representing multi-managed lodging-other.
Fairmont Chateau Whistler general manager Michael Kaile was acclaimed as director single-managed lodging-large.
The director-at-large position is held by Patrick McCurdy. That position will be up for election next year.
The six appointed members of Tourism Whistler’s board are Tourism Whistler President Barrett Fisher, David Brownlie and Stuart Rempel of Whistler-Blackcomb, Bill Barratt and Ken Melamed of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and Dave Davenport who represents the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, ex officio.
Numbers bouncing back
After refocusing on value and service, the past year has seen visitor numbers rebound, Tourism Whistler President Barrett Fisher told members at last week’s annual general meeting.
Last summer was Whistler’s busiest ever, with room nights sold up 14 per cent over the summer of 2005. And while the final numbers are not in for the 2006-07 winter, room nights are forecast to be up 13 per cent.
Fisher stressed the importance of new additions to the resort in helping boost the room night numbers. She pointed to the tube park, which opened two winters ago, the Symphony chairlift that opened last December on Whistler Mountain and the announcement this spring of the Peak to Peak gondola as significant investments that are helping to attract visitors.
“It’s the alignment of a number of issues that determines success or failure,” Fisher said.
Visitor numbers from Washington, California and Alberta were up significantly this past winter but a number of challenges lie ahead. The U.S. passport requirement at land border crossings that will take effect some time next year is expected to have an impact on weekend or impulse visits by Americans to Whistler. Air fares to Vancouver for many Americans continue to be $200-$300 more than flights to Colorado. And staying competitive in the economy- and moderately-priced segments of the travel market is an ongoing challenge.
Fisher pointed out that Tourism Whistler’s marketing and sales expenditures have grown steadily in recent years, from $4.9 million in 2003 to $7 million in 2007.