When new Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Danny Tuff was researching his new home, he was struck by the parallels he found between Whistler and his native Newfoundland.
"Obviously, there are some fundamental differences, but the commitment to hospitality, to making people feel welcome, and people being down to earth, hospitable, genuine and authentic, you realize these are unique places," he said.
The co-founder of energy efficiency technology company Blue Line Innovations, Tuff brings a wealth of tourism industry experience to the job and was selected from over 80 applicants. He replaces Val Litwin, who left to head the BC Chamber of Commerce this month after three years in Whistler.
"After a comprehensive search the board of directors is pleased to welcome such a seasoned and visionary leader," said Whistler Chamber board chair Grant Cousar in a release last week. "The board is confident that Danny's executive leadership and track record of innovation will be an enormous asset to elevating Whistler's local economy."
Tuff previously managed tourism industry accounts for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and served as GM of two private tourism companies in Newfoundland. He also "brings a wealth of experience in world-class training and education technology" from his time as Atlantic Canada's director of business operations for D2L Corporation.
The 41-year-old said he's been an entrepreneur at heart since a young age, and has worked with large multinationals like Black & Decker, and "sat at the kitchen table" with small, emerging start-ups.
"You're working with people and within challenges and opportunities that regardless of the size of the organization take the same time, effort and dedication to commitment," Tuff said. "I've learned as much from the small businesses as I have the larger ones."
Although he's just settling into the job, Tuff already had some ideas on how to usher the chamber into its next phase. He believes the business organization is only "scratching the surface" of the potential for its customer service training program, Whistler Experience.
"There's lots of room now, given the success the chamber and Whistler has experienced, to expand our horizons somewhat," he said, adding that he believes there are chances to offer training courses beyond B.C. by way of "online or blended learning opportunities."
He's also cognizant that Vail Resorts' plans to take over Whistler Blackcomb and slash the price of its season's pass could mean a drop in price for the chamber's Spirit Pass as well.
"I'm going to take a closer look at what everyone has to say about it," noted Tuff. "We need to make sure there's just not perceived value in everything we offer, but actual value."
Whistler's continued growth has also got Tuff thinking about the business sector's role in the community's current housing shortage.
"The onus is on us as the business community to take a leadership role and help each other address that. It's one thing to achieve success, it's another to maintain that momentum and grow," he said. "The key here is to grow in a way that protects the integrity of the community."
With Litwin now heading B.C.'s largest business organization, Tuff said Whistler is well positioned to lobby Victoria as well as Ottawa on a number of key issues affecting the resort, namely the Temporary Foreign Worker program.
"We need to recognize that Whistler depends on our ability to serve our customers," he said. "This is not a situation where Whistler has tried to simply save money. It's a situation where we're trying to deliver the highest level of service possible and to maintain our reputation as a quality resort destination."
The community is encouraged to meet Tuff in person on Oct. 6 for the next Chamber Après session, from 5 to 9 p.m. Visit whistlerchamber.chambermaster.com/events for details.