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Tourism Whistler to launch symbol to identify ‘legal’ tourist accommodations.



An accommodation rating system will also be revealed this fall

Tourism Whistler plans to launch a wordmark symbol to identify properties properly zoned for temporary or tourist accommodations.

The symbol would appear beside all Tourism Whistler approved accommodations, as they are all properly zoned.

But it will also be made available to any "legal" accommodation provider as well.

"Through its prevalence and the guests seeing it time and time again it will start to build a certain level of awareness that they should be looking for this symbol as they are browsing whatever sources they are using to secure their property," said Tourism Whistler president and CEO Suzanne Denbak.

Properly zoned versus "illegal" temporary accommodations has been a thorny issue in Whistler for several years.

The municipality has taken one couple to court for operating illegally. The municipality’s bylaw was upheld in court and an appeal by the couple was rejected.

The B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that Whistler homes with residential-single family zoning cannot be rented for periods of less than 28 consecutive days.

Recently, the business license of AlluraDirect was yanked by the municipality for facilitating the rental of properties not zoned for temporary accommodations on its Web site.

Allura plans to keep operating, believing the municipality is violating property owners’ right to advertise where they want.

John Richmond who owns and operates Whistler’s Very Best Accommodations business is thrilled with Tourism Whistler’s plan.

"There is no doubt this will help," he said.

Richmond and others have been discussing a move such as this with Tourism Whistler for some months.

He believes it will help protect the integrity of the community by helping properly zoned tourist accommodation businesses succeed and it will protect customers making sure they get what they paid for – an exceptional experience in a number-one resort.

Richmond is already striving to inform the public about the controversy by offering a brief explanation about what has been happening in the community on his Web site. He also encourages customers to check out their accommodations carefully.

Marggie McGraw, who owns and operates a chalet in Nicklaus North, also welcomes the move.

"Its absolutely fabulous," she said.

"It is a huge step forward and I would think that anyone who has a legally zoned chalet would welcome it with open arms."

McGraw is also hoping the standardization of accommodations through Tourism Whistler will stop a growing problem: Bait and switch.

She said some customers are "baited" with properties through a Web site or other form of advertising only to find out upon arrival that they are staying somewhere else, often an accommodation which does not match the criteria they were looking for.

"This issue is a major concern with many property owners, I think," she said.

The details are still being worked out but property owners are hoping that street address material will be included in the system so that this dubious practice can be wiped out.

Along with the wordmark symbol Tourism Whistler will also launch an accommodation rating system this fall.

It will rate Tourism Whistler member accommodations on a one to five peak system, with five peaks being dream vacation accommodation.

McGraw and Richmond welcome the rating system as well.

"I think it is a wonderful way to let the public know and to give all the chalets a standard, that is really wonderful," said McGraw.