The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) will be running its tourism-based programs with less money from the province this year — $370,000 less.
The province has indicated that Whistler can expect about $6.73 million in RMI funding for 2016, subject to provincial budget approval in April, down from the $7.1 million it got in 2015.
However, the RMOW's Festivals Events and Animation program (FE&A) will remain largely unchanged from last year — the one new addition being a Tough Mudder Half on June 25.
Fifteen events will split $834,500, pending approval through the municipal budget process.
FE&A programming has helped provide a boost to May-to-October occupancy in the resort since 2011, said manager of village animation and events Bob Andrea in a Feb. 16 presentation to council.
Compared to 2011 occupancy numbers, every one of those months saw a significant jump, led by a 62-per-cent increase in October, a 49-per-cent increase in June and a 26-per-cent increase in July, council heard.
The figures have been buoyed by increased numbers of conferences and groups choosing Whistler as their meeting spot, Andrea said, helped along by RMI marketing funding for Tourism Whistler.
The biggest chunks of FE&A funding in 2016 will go to Ironman ($250,000), the World Ski and Snowboard Festival ($150,000) and Tough Mudder ($100,000).
Five events that received their first FE&A funding last year are back on the list again, though they're not all receiving the same amount of money as 2015.
The biggest payout for the second-year FE&A festivals is to Mudderella ($60,000), followed by Whistler Pride ($25,000), the Whistler Village Beer Festival ($15,000), Whistler Ultra ($10,000) and Outerbike ($7,000).
The Whistler Film Festival ($45,000), Cornucopia ($40,000), the Children's Festival ($37,500), GranFondo ($20,000), Crankworx ($20,000) and the Whistler Writers Festival ($10,000) also received funding through the program.
The planning process for 2016 began last June, FE&A oversight committee chair Sue Adams told mayor and council.
"Since then there have been numerous meetings, working sessions with resort partners and with the oversight committee to address a wide range of strategic programming, operational and budgetary issues to enable us to determine the best possible use of the FE&A funds," Adams said.
"I'm very satisfied that the 2016 FE&A planning process has been conducted with the utmost integrity."
The municipality found out last February that funding through the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) would be available until at least 2017, but beyond that the future of RMI is uncertain.
Coming out of the 2015 process, the FE&A committee decided to broaden its planning and scope, and look ahead to the next four years.
"We looked at various considerations, including the goals and strategies. What's been working so far? Is it going to continue to work into the future?" Andrea told council.
Potential refinements to the program include increasing investment in village animation and finding ways of working with regional partners like neighbouring First Nations, the District of Squamish and the Village of Pemberton.
"We looked at all sorts of scenarios, (and) we even started to look at, as the resort gets a little busier, things such as waste management, conservation issues, waste diverting, and things like that in consideration for events."
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the FE&A committee is doing a terrific job.
"The message is out there that there is always something going on in Whistler, and so the program is functioning very, very well," she said.
This year's total proposed budget for FE&A is $3.16 million.
Included in that total are events organized and run by the municipality — like GO Fest, Canada Day celebrations and outdoor summer concerts like the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra — as well as funds set aside for animation and marketing.
The FE&A budget will be considered within the overall municipal budget.
A community information meeting focused on all things Budget 2016 is scheduled for Tuesday, February 23 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Maury Young Arts Centre.
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