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Whistler gets voice on provincial tourism council

Fisher and Brownlie part of 13-member council giving advice to province




Whistler will have a strong voice on the province's new Council on Tourism, reporting directly to the tourism minister Kevin Krueger.

Tourism Whistler President and CEO Barrett Fisher and Whistler Blackcomb President and COO Dave Brownlie were two of 13 representatives selected to the council this week.

The council's job is to inform the minister on a wide variety of tourism issues including product development, competitiveness, infrastructure, labour force, visitor services and marketing and research.

Its creation comes on the heels of a surprise decision in August to dismiss the Tourism B.C. board and president Rod Harris and bring the former Crown corporation into the tourism ministry. It will be brought into the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts effective April 1, 2010.

"I think it's very exciting," said Fisher this week of being selected to the council. "These are interesting times. We have many challenges ahead with the tourism industry and the economy and some of the changing trends that are occurring with customers, and then we of course have some new changes happening with Tourism British Columbia and with the ministry of tourism. So I think that there will be lots to be part of and to strategize on as we move forward and I'm certainly excited about the opportunity that lies ahead."

Brownlie was not available for comment Tuesday.

The council includes members from around the province and from destination and regional marketing organizations, as well as industry insiders.

Other members include Keith Henry, chief executive officer of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of B.C., Darcy Alexander of Sun Peaks Resort, Andrew Cohen, the senior executive of Fernie and Kimberley resorts and Steve Smith, president and CEO of several Prince Rupert hospitality related businesses.

The chair of the council is Stuart McLaughlin, president of Grouse Mountain Resorts and a past president of Tourism Vancouver.

"The council's expertise and advice will directly impact how B.C. is marketed to the world as a top-notch tourism destination," said Minister Kevin Krueger.

The two Whistler representatives bring years of experience to the table.

"Whistler is a large contributor to the tourism economy," said Fisher. "I think we're the third largest contributor, after Vancouver and Victoria, to the provincial coffers. So I think the destination of Whistler comes with a great deal of experience on a year round basis in driving the winter resort and summer resort experience. So hopefully we'll be able to bring that resort perspective and certainly we'll be there, though wearing our provincial-wide hat."

When asked if there are any issues in particular that she wants to bring to the table, Fisher said not only does she want to see B.C. capitalize on the 2010 Games for years to come but also to ensure that the customer needs and wants are at the forefront of decisions.

"If as a province our goal is to double tourism revenues in 2015, I think that it's critically important, as it is in any industry, that we are ensuring that we are always in touch with the customer... so that we can make sure that we're current, that we are always adapting to the competitive environment and to our customers' needs."

The council is expected to meet quarterly, with the first meeting in Vancouver next week.