By Kevin Damaskie
RMOW Policy and Program Development
Ah, these cucumber slices on my eyelids are just making all the stress, tension and troubles of life in 2007 just melt away… thank you for rubbing my feet, I’m now forgetting all about the global climate crisis… I drift off, blissed out and oblivious. Another willing spa victim.
The spa business in Canada is big and getting bigger (see sidebar), and Whistler is poised to become a premier destination in this market’s evolution into what could loosely be called the “beyond spa” market, dubbed “Alpine Wellness.”
Composed of all things Whistler, hiking, biking, snowsports and outdoor recreation in general, plus the typical massage and facial spa experience, Alpine Wellness is a real, renewable business and market opportunity for this well, mountain town.
In fact, this market opportunity is so tied in with Whistler, folks are going to be coming from all over the globe to do what we do all the time. And that is a good thing.
“Whenever you get into something that is germane to the local residents you get the whole community supporting the initiative simply through the way they live their lives,” says Arlene Schieven, Tourism Whistler’s Vice President of Marketing. “Whistler and our citizens set a pretty high benchmark for what people think is a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle.”
According to Dr. Peter Williams of Simon Fraser University, health and wellness tourism is: “leisure, recreational and educational activities removed from the distractions of work and home that use tourism products and services designed to promote and enable customers to improve and maintain their health and well-being.”
Tourism Whistler has gone so far as to create a Health and Wellness Tourism strategy for 2007-2009. It addresses the opportunities, supported by Whistler’s natural and built assets, to support mind, body and spiritual fitness. It also includes a definition of this market relative to Whistler: “Travel, particularly to the mountains, for the purpose of improving and maintaining one’s health and well-being — mentally, physically and spiritually.”
Great, I’m in.
That said, organizers of the Whistler Wellness Week, which wrapped up in mid-May and is scheduled next year for May 24-30, are basking in the post-event alpenglow of a highly successful second annual event. Co-organizer Glen Iles, of Wellness Events, says Wellness Week will “organically grow” into a quality Whistler festival ranking up there with Cornucopia, the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and Crankworx. All tolled, these events draw guests to the resort at non-peak times, focus clearly on what we have and do well and diversify our tourism economy. Hiking, biking and yoga-ing our way to economic sustainability.