Special "locals' discounts" have been part of Whistler's economy as long as there has been an economy.
But starting in August, one woman hopes to make it easier for businesses to connect with residents and let them know about their deals.
Julia Cochrane, from Delta in the Lower Mainland, is in the initial stages of launching a locals' card program which would see a special card circulate in Whistler that would help gain access to store discounts.
She has spent the past week phoning nonprofit and charity groups in Whistler to gauge their interest, and next week she plans to approach businesses.
Residents can find out about special discounts and events through the program's website, whistlerlocalcard.com, as well as through Twitter, Facebook or weekly e-mails, explained Cochrane. Participating businesses with a storefront will get a green sticker to let people know they are part of the program.
For-profit businesses pay anywhere from $199 to $1,500 to be part of the program.
"The program actually started about 18 months ago down in the States," said Cochrane. "My business partner down there took about two years to develop the back-end software, and then he started in Park City, where he is currently living."
Cochrane said during the first year in Park City, Utah, the locals' card program generated about $4.8 million in sales for businesses. About $1.8 million went back to locals in the form of discounts.
Since then, the card has been launched throughout different communities in the United States, including Aspen, Vail, Boulder, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Monterey. Plans are currently underway to take the card to the Netherlands and Australia.
"The reason I want to try it in Whistler is because it can be expensive for locals to live, and for businesses there are definitely down times when it is not winter or summer time," said Cochrane. "It is a way to bring the two together and help out local business and help out locals in providing deals by local businesses. That is why the tag line is 'locals choosing locals.'"
To further reach out to the community, Cochrane has decided to let nonprofits and charity groups sign up for the program for free. The groups can then use her advertising venues to promote their programs and events.
So far, the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP) and the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Sea to Sky Chapter have agreed to participate, said Cochrane.
She also wants to connect with Whistler's Parent Advisory Committees (PACs) to offer an alternative avenue for those communities to raise funds for school programs.
Other local card programs have been tried in Whistler in the past, but none have been successful.
Cochrane said while she has not looked into why those programs failed, she hopes her winning ingredient is her use of social media.
"I am not sure what happened to them or how visible they made themselves," said Cochrane. "From the messages I am getting from Twitter, people think it is a great idea and they like the visibility of it."
She added that if she can get the card launched successfully in Whistler she wants to bring the program to Squamish.
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