Tourism's 'new normal'

Walking around Whistler these past two weekends, it was easy to feel upbeat along with the many visitors enjoying the village animation, shopping and relaxing in our hometown.

And when the sun broke through the clouds occasionally, everyone was smiling.

But there is an undercurrent of unease running through the village, indeed the community right now.

In the last few days I have learned of friends who have lost jobs and I have had to confront desperation as well.

On Friday night, after an amazing elementary school dance, the volunteers and organizers of the event were shocked to find that half of the money raised had disappeared as it sat tucked away before being taken by the Parent Advisory Council treasurer.

Now, we have had scores of fundraising events at the school since I became part of the elementary community and, while we are always very careful with the funds, we have never felt there was a need to worry for the money's security.

But right now in this town things are so difficult for somebody that they took the close to $500 which was to be used to help support two school trips taking place this week for Grades 5 and 6.

Obviously the dedicated parents who put so much effort into the event are devastated by the loss but it goes much deeper than that. It's like a pebble in the pond.

In the way of the world this event could symbolize so much more if we follow the ripples out to the many businesses in Whistler struggling against the waves of global recession. For years we heard that hosting the Olympics would bring visitors back in spades for every one Whistler lost due to Olympic aversion.

But we haven't seen that happen though many experts have predicted that the timelines are closer to two years to see change.

Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is what would it be like now if we hadn't hosted the Games - maybe we would be even worse off.

Talk to business owners and you will get a picture of how tough it is right now. Some have eaten away reserves and are into their credit lines. Others are keeping staffing levels to a minimum and watching the bottom line. Rumours of businesses closing seem to come up regularly.

Running through all this is the desire by most to do whatever it takes to keep the resort successful and maybe that, along with sheer frustration about the things we have no control over in the economy, lies at the root of the outcry against the plans to introduce the latest pay parking strategy.


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