Après Après Ski 

Entrepreneur Joey Gibbons reflects on bringing reality TV to Whistler

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Concierge Life Après Ski starred Tamara Moore, Kendra Larkin, Jim Sced, Lynsey Dyer, Joey Gibbons, Charlotte Fenton, Bobby Crowder and Elise Wims (left to right).
  • Photo submitted
  • Concierge Life Après Ski starred Tamara Moore, Kendra Larkin, Jim Sced, Lynsey Dyer, Joey Gibbons, Charlotte Fenton, Bobby Crowder and Elise Wims (left to right).

These days, Joey Gibbons, the chief executive of Whistler entertainment group Gibbons Life, is spending a lot of time with his kids.

"I drop my kids off every day at school, I go on their field trips, and I pick them up every day. Take time off in the summer for them. It's my priority," he says.

This comes after a busy 2015, with the creation of Après Ski, the Bravo reality TV series about seven battling concierges in Gibbons' company, the visitors who come to Whistler expecting first-class treatment, and his role as boss overseeing it all.

The show premiered in the U.S. on Nov. 2. The series also ran in Australia and Canada.

Gibbons, whose company Gibbons Hospitality owns pubs and clubs around Whistler, including the Longhorn Saloon, Garfinkel's, FireRock, Buffalo Bills and Tapley's, was entering the travel concierge business just as Bravo was searching for a new reality TV business.

It was a match made in TV heaven, and looking back, Gibbons can reflect on what was achieved.

"The best result was meeting a couple on the Longhorn (Saloon) patio, who had never heard of Whistler before, saw the beauty of it and decided to book their honeymoon (here)," Gibbons says.

"Other great wins are businesses who were on the show who had come to me and have all of a sudden received a lot of interest in their services because of the show."

There were challenges, too, and Gibbons is open about them — particularly cynical comments on social media.

"If there are any negatives to it, it never feels good as a person to be spoken of poorly, especially when you have the best intentions for the resort. One of the things that makes (Whistler) so awesome is that there are a lot of opinionated people here and they don't like their town to be messed with," he says.

"But overall, I believe it was 100 per cent a good thing for Whistler's economy and showcasing our incredible town to the U.S., in particular."Gibbons says interest in Whistler is coming from hedge fund managers in Wall Street, consultants in Boston, with requests from Florida and Texas, too.

"All these markets that we've never really seen before," he says, adding that their focus was to draw such young professionals to Whistler.

"We're sending them to the restaurants in town, to do activities they've watched on the show like heli-skiing. They're leaving and saying, 'I'm coming back. I want to buy a house here.'

"They're smart enough to see through the arguments that happened with concierges and see the beauty, and they're coming here because of it. That feels great."

Gibbons has a lot of good things to say about the team who pulled the show together.

"There were really good people behind the scenes. There's a couple of people who were tough to deal with and you can see that on camera, and it was the same off camera — really, one person — but everyone else was awesome."

The investment in the community was also important, he adds.

"They spent $5 million in the resort last year... NBC (owners of Bravo) did. And they spent another $5 million on advertising the show throughout the States. Spending on all the experiences, staying in the hotels. They paid for it all," Gibbons says."Getting that to come back and another $5 million spend... We can take a little bit of bickering for that."

Is there anything he'd do differently?"I went through that in my mind. I had a meeting at the start with all the stakeholders in the community together at the chamber of commerce and let them know what was happening," he says.He gave them contact information for the shows producers, who were also available during filming, along with Tourism Whistler and the municipality. No one came with concerns or queries, says Gibbons.

"The parts I was allowed to edit... they gave (the right) to me to do it with anything (to do with) Whistler. If they said anything bad about a business in town, just in comments, I got that kind of stuff erased," he says.

"It's an NBC show and I have to say they were very fair to me."

The viewership numbers for the finale of Après Ski was 650,000 in the U.S. — the highest number of viewers in the series.

Gibbons says he is not sure if the show will be picked up for a second series.

"I made it clear to them that the only way we'd be involved is if we could continue to try and make it more authentic to Whistler. We would want to work more closely with them on the editing so it would be less around drama and more around how awesome Whistler is," he says.



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