Whistler ain't cheap. The cost per day per visitor - with the hotels, the meals, and the Zip Trekking and so on - can sit around $700 per day. Compare that to an all-inclusive vacation for $700, and in these days those stunning mountains might not be enough to reign in visitors.
What Whistler does have, and can build on, is excellent visitor experience.
Enter Stuart Ellis-Meyers, an internationally respected speaker on communication, leadership, sales and relationship management practices, who has big plans for Whistler and its employees. He says it's all about "wowing" the visitors.
"I want you to walk out, go out of your way and just wow one person," he said. "I mean, go out of your way and just do it. I don't care if it's on your way to work or on your way home, but just have it once a week as a starter."
This will be the crux of his keynote speeches at the Spirit Program lunch and breakfast on Nov. 9 and 10. In the coming months he will also lead the Spirit Program workshops for employees getting Spirit Passes.
A self-described "mad man" who has worked in the tourist industry for over 30 years, Ellis-Meyers suffers from Tourette's syndrome, bipolar disorder and an array of other psychiatric issues that he refuses to let roadblock his life. Instead, he's turned it into an advantage: he's described as "Robin Williams with a twitch" and he'll bring a whole lot of energy and a whole lot of clown noses at next week's presentation.
"Instead of suffering through 90 minutes of crap, why don't we have a party, throw some water around, everyone gets a red clown nose and let's have a laugh," he says.
The Whistler Chamber of Commerce hired Ellis-Meyers in the hope that his work will inspire a greater service culture within Whistler businesses. Meyers's hope is if everyone wows one person per day, with 5,000 people taking the Spirit Program, that's 35,000 wows a week. That's 140,000 people every month who will have their minds blown by excellent customer service from Whistler employees.
"That's 1.4 million people per year saying to others, 'You have to get yourself off to Whistler,'" he says.
Ellis-Meyers worked in the Lake Louise resort during his 20s and brings with him an intimate knowledge of how resorts function and what they need - what Whistler needs - to succeed in the coming decade.
"The recession's going to be going on for another three years. There's going to be carnage," he says. The best advantage Whistler has is its customer service."
The Whistler Chamber of Commerce surveyed its membership last April, and one of the key messages coming back was the recognition that service is one of the key advantages that makes Whistler distinct.
But Meyers understands that the health of a resort matters very little to 20-somethings, who dominate the front lines of visitor customer service in Whistler. As long as they can make enough money to snowboard, ski or fart around in the hours between work, life is good.
Meyers is saying do all that, but at the same time you might as well learn how to become a master communicator.
"That's what I'm zeroing in on. Take this as an opportunity to wow someone now, so you can wow anybody in your life."
The Spirit Program is an joint initiative with Whistler Blackcomb. Employees who attend the workshops are eligible for discounted ski passes. Spirit courses will run from November through February. For more information, visit www.whistlerchamber.com.
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