News » Whistler

WSSF visitors spent more than $20 million in Whistler in 2012

Festival producer releases never-before-seen numbers



With half a million dollars less in its coffers this year, World Ski and Snowboard Festival producer Sue Eckersley is gearing up to put on another world-class event on a "lean and mean" budget that will pump millions of dollars into the community.

No one attending will be any the wiser that the budget has dropped from $1.8 million last year to $1.35 million this year, she says, and if it's anything like last year more than $22 million in spending will ripple across the community from April 12-21.

This is the first time WSSF has released its operating budget. The transparency was prompted in part by the $135,000 contribution of taxpayers money for this year's festival. It's the first year in its long history that the WSSF has used taxpayer money.

"My feeling is if that you're going after public money... I think we have to release numbers," Eckersley said simply.

The 2012 budget numbers are part of the 2012 Economic Impact Assessment of the festival, recently released to

Pique. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) paid for the assessment, done by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance, last year.

It will be funding nine EIAs this year including WinterPRIDE, Whistler Cup, Tough Mudder, the Children's Art Festival, Vancouver Symphony Concerts, Wanderlust, Crankworx, Ironman and the expanded 10-day Cornucopia.

The studies will be paid for out of the $2.84 million Festivals, Events and Animation budget at the hall and used as research into the nascent festivals program, which provides money to various festivals throughout the year.

The assessment reveals, among other things: the number of visitors to the festival, visitor spending, breakdown of spending, operational expenditures, and the net economic activity in the province and in Whistler.

That's good, said Eckersley, because the decision-makers will have numbers so that they "can compare apples to apples" when it comes to divvying up the funds.

Eckersley said they'd be able to ask themselves: "What is the real Return On Investment (ROI) for the community?"

The 2012 WSSF assessment, for example, reveals that the total economic activity (industry output) generated by the event was $27.3 million in the province, with $14.7 million occurring in Whistler.

Of the more than 70,000 guests attending the festival, 20,000 were local, more than 33,000 were domestic and more than 17,000 were international.

Combining the attendance estimates with the average spending per person and the CSTA assessment concludes that visitors to the festival spend $22.5 million in Whistler.

The largest percentage of that spend at $7.2 million goes to food and drink, followed by $4.5 million on accommodation, and $3.84 on recreation and entertainment.

"I'm a big fan of transparency," Eckersley said. "I think that these studies will create a little more transparency."

Though the municipality will be paying for the studies this year, it will be up to each individual event producer to make their studies public.

The FE&A working group, however, will have access to the information.

The municipal communications department stated: "Along with other research, conducting the studies enables the FE&A working group and oversight committees (to make informed decisions)."

Dean Nelson, executive producer of WinterPRIDE, said the 2013 assessment of the February festival is not yet complete. He applied for a grant for 2012 but was turned down, and has said he may take his festival elsewhere.