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Visitors could get new welcome experience

Municipality exploring the possibility of an amenity hub on fall work plan



This fall the municipality will investigate the possibility of building a new visitor welcome centre in the day skier parking lots.

It could be a place where visitors arrive and depart from Whistler, drop off their bags if they have to check out of their hotels early, and even have a shower if the notion takes them.

But the hub still hinges on many things before it gets the green light.

"Right now it is simply an idea," explained Jan Jansen, the municipality's general manager of resort experience. "It needs to be explored. It needs to be defined and it needs to be understood by everyone before we would expect anyone to endorse it."

Jansen said the feasibility study and business plan for the visitor amenity hub will take place in the coming months and he hopes to have it finished by the end of the year.

That's why $200,000 has been earmarked from the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) grant - grant money that comes from the province this year totaling $7.5 million - to pay for the study.

A further $7 million from future RMI funding has been used as a placeholder if the amenity hub is to go ahead.

"At the end of the day what we do know is we (the municipality) can't accept more operating costs, so it is something that needs to carry itself - that is what needs to be looked at from a financial perspective," said Jansen.

A visitor welcome or amenity hub has long been talked about in Whistler either for Function Junction or Creekside or even in the village.

Gateway Loop has become the primarily bus loading and unloading area and the Visitor Information Centre serves as a meeting point. The area, however, was never designed from the outset as an official welcome area.

The new hub could be a way of improving that visitor experience and the level of service that guests expect.

"That's not to say that we're coming up short at this time but there's certainly room for improvement," said Jansen.

The municipality is looking at the impound lot between Day Skier Lots 3 and 4 as the potential location for the amenity hub.