Tourism Whistler (TW) is tapping the community to help define what makes the resort special and how to best protect its unique character, insights that will help guide how the destination marketing organization represents Whistler to the world.
"What we're looking at is a vision for tourism," explained TW president and CEO Barrett Fisher. "There are things we would expect to hear feedback on, about the importance of our natural environment and our inherent mountain culture and the signature pieces that make Whistler special and unique. But it's going deeper than that and it's getting into the spirit of the place and the things we want to protect."
TW officially began the process last month with a workshop on June 14 that was attended by 72 local residents across a range of industries, backgrounds, and demographics. The organization has since launched an online survey that is open to all members of the community. Taken together with visitor surveys and insights from social media, Fisher said the research would help inform TW's future messaging and the kinds of experiences offered here.
"A tourist destination is made up of its community and that community needs to be aligned with the vision of where we're going with our tourism, how we promote it and who we attract, and ensuring it's the right volumes at the right time of the year so that it's a sustainable tourism product and that we are able to support it on a year-round basis, balancing volume with our carrying capacity," she said.
"It will certainly influence our marketing, but it will influence experiences," Fisher added. "When we look at destination development and creating new experiences, are they aligned with the insights and the spirit and personality of the place and are they aligned with what guests are looking for and what our community, our business community and our residents are equally prepared to support?
"It's really trying to be a filter for all of our tourism decision-making." Fisher acknowledged that TW has done similar "place-branding exercises" before, but this is the first to directly incorporate residents' input.
"It's nothing new; it's just drilling deeper to make sure there's an alignment from the community that are we doing the right things," she explained. "Are we going after the right target audiences? Are we going after the right target volumes? And making sure that we are truly focusing on what sets Whistler apart from all of our competitors."
The effort is part and parcel with the increasing personalization of online tourism marketing in the digital age, Fisher said.
"It's no longer relevant for Tourism Whistler to promote the destination anymore, we are really facilitators. What we're trying to do—and this is perhaps the biggest part that's new—is facilitate why people come to live here and what they love about it, and align those two audiences to make sure we are working, living and playing together in the same sandbox while appreciating and respecting the natural environment of Whistler and this special place that we either live in or visit," she explained. "We're just a facilitator of that messaging now, and how we ensure that, as storytellers ... we're telling the right stories that hold true to the genuine personality and character of this place (is important)."
The survey can be found at whistler.com/placebrandingsurvey. Fisher said TW expects to report back on its findings in the fall.