Corridor businesses preparing for Squamish music fest 

Accommodation and transportation businesses eager to provide services

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOHN FRENCH - SHOW BIZ Businesses in Squamish and Whistler are planning ahead of the Squamish Valley Music Festival, finding ways to serve the 30,000 visitors expected for the event.
  • Photo by John French
  • SHOW BIZ Businesses in Squamish and Whistler are planning ahead of the Squamish Valley Music Festival, finding ways to serve the 30,000 visitors expected for the event.

With the lineup announcement for the Squamish Valley Music Festival (SVMF) out of the way, corridor businesses are now looking to capitalize on the event.

Tourism Whistler (TW) is working closely with SVMF organizers to promote items that would "add value to the festival experience and perhaps encourage (guests) to stay longer in Whistler and make it more of a vacation than just the weekend," said TW's vice president of marketing and strategic planning Louise Walker.

The music festival's official website now links to www.whistler.com, where festival attendees can book accommodation and learn about special activity packages offered in the resort over the weekend of Aug, 8, 9 and 10.

Shuttle bus transport improvements are among this year's $12-million festival enhancements, a measure that Walker said "should improve highway access, which is important for the entire corridor."

SVMF again falls on the opening weekend of Whistler's popular mountain bike event, Crankworx, this year. The resort averaged 83-per-cent occupancy over the three days the festival was held in 2013, Walker noted. Last August was Whistler's busiest on record, with a 73-per-cent occupancy rate, buoyed in part by large events like Ironman and Wanderlust, as well as the BC Day Long Weekend, she added.

For the resort business community hoping to take advantage of the influx of visitors during one of the busiest weekends of the year, Whistler Chamber of Commerce CEO Val Litwin said it's essential that local companies know what their brand connection is, and how it applies to the kind of destination visitor likely to be in town during that period.

"I don't think just because we have thousands of people showing up that it's an opportunity for everyone," Litwin said. "If you're a business that wants to get involved, you have to be astute and you have to figure out that connection."

Whistler businesses have a great opportunity to attract the "adrenaline-seeking crowd" in the resort for the three-day music festival and Crankworx, Litwin said.

"If you've got people that are coming from far away to enjoy an incredible music festival, why shouldn't they come up here after and enjoy a zip-line through the woods, some great food and some of the outdoor activities here to complement that concert experience?" he said.

Meanwhile, in Squamish the Chamber of Commerce is setting up a think-tank session with the festival's creative director, Paul Runnals. Elliott Moses, the Squamish Chamber'sexecutive director is working to set a date.

"The chamber is looking to get the festival organizers together with local businesses to learn how we can all help out each other," said Moses of the planned small-group session.

The Squamish Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) is planning its third annual On The Street event for Saturday, Aug. 9. In its first few years the event has featured an outdoor pancake breakfast on Cleveland Avenue followed by music performances, and outdoor street events in a pedestrian-only zone from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Christine Bennett, the BIA's executive director, said her organization is working to make the downtown event bigger this year in conjunction with Squamish's 100-year anniversary celebrations.

Bennett is working with the music festival organizers to book a known music attraction for On The Street. Local aspiring performers will open for the established act.

"We'll have them (local performers) again, but we hope to have a main band that will help to bring more people out," said Bennett.

A number of Squamish businesses are doing planning work now, well ahead of the festival. Frank Ryan, general manager of Howe Sound Taxi, said the Saturday of the music festival was his company's biggest day of the year in 2013.

He got permission from the Passenger Transportation Board to bring in an extra cab last year and the year before that. This year he plans to apply to bring in two additional vehicles for the weekend. He said that when 15,000 people came to Squamish for the festival his operation was overwhelmed, so he's expecting the same again this year with the size of the festival expected to double.

"We'll have two extra vehicles and it won't come close to meeting the demand," said Ryan.

By John French

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