Whistler has always been a good place to host events, but since the Olympics the interest in the community has ratcheted up a notch. Some of the events added in the past year include the RBC GranFondo ride from Vancouver to Whistler and the return of the Xterra Canadian Championships after a decade. This summer will see the first running of the Whistler Half Marathon, the first Canadian running of a Warrior Dash and the relocation of the 100 km Haney to Harrison ultra run and team relay.
Tourism Whistler has been working behind the scenes for the past few years to make it easier for event organizers to plan events in town, and according to Lynn Chappel, the manger of partnership marketing and collateral, it's starting to have an impact.
"An event tourism strategy was put together a few years ago to look at the opportunities around events - what are the core strengths of the (Events Whistler) major community partners, and how can we streamline efforts so we can best assist and support event producers looking to host events in Whistler?" said Chappell.
"One of the key recommendations was to put together a one-stop shop for event producers where they can find information on Whistler... like what venues are available, what are the protocols and permits that people need to think about, what are the resources in town... just showing the breadth of services we have within Whistler."
The tool can be accessed on Whistler.com, the reservations site owned by the municipality and operated by Tourism Whistler. Once an event producer fills out a form, or contacts Chappell directly, that information is reviewed by Chappel then taken to a monthly stakeholders meeting, which includes Tourism Whistler, Whistler Blackcomb, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Whistler Chamber and the Whistler Arts Council.
These groups form the Events Whistler Working Committee. There's also an Events Whistler executive committee with representatives from Tourism Whistler, Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies and the municipality that provides more strategic direction for larger events.
Once the event has been reviewed and resort partners know their level of involvement, Tourism Whistler and other partners work with event organizers to ensure that they have the information and assistance they need to move forward.
Chappell says Tourism Whistler said several more events are in the works, but pointed to the Warrior Dash as an example where the online application proved its value.
"The organizers had wanted to expand into Canada for a while and decided on Whistler," said Chappell. "They filled out the form, we got in touch with them and they came here to scout out locations and the town with partners showing them around."
As well as the online toolkit for event organizers, Tourism Whistler also has other events-related initiatives in the works. One of those is the Sports Tourism Strategy, which has been in development for several years.
"We're in the midst of finalizing the sport tourism framework, which is looking at the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders in the resort, and establishing tools and process for sport organizations looking to hold events in Whistler," said Chappell. "More importantly we're looking at the strategy to attract new events... and so we're doing things like updating our inventory of venues, working closely with clubs to understand what events are taking place in different areas of sport.
"We're also reaching out to sporting organizations. B.C. Sports held a tourism marketplace in November, and we had a presence."
As well, Tourism Whistler is preparing to launch a master events calendar for the resort, with separate categories for sports, nightlife, cultural events and more. Tourism Whistler members can use the calendar to prepare for upcoming events or reproduce to share with their customers. They can also link to the calendar through their own websites.
Tourism Whistler will update the calendar as it becomes aware of events, and will create a tool where their members can add events to the list.
"The idea is to gather up all the events taking place, filter them and make sure they're communicated in different ways depending on what's relevant," said Chappell.
The calendar component will be posted at Whistler.com, but can be linked to from anywhere. Currently it's in the last stages of testing and quality control, and Chappell expects to the calendar to be up and running sometime in February.