VSO helps drive room nights while concert attendance remains flat 

Deadline approaches to apply for new orchestral program

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MIKE CRANE COURTESY OF TOURISM WHISTLER. - Numbers count Crowds gather at Whistler Olympic Plaza in 2013 for the annual calendar staple — the outdoor free Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performances.
  • Photo by Mike Crane courtesy of Tourism Whistler.
  • Numbers count Crowds gather at Whistler Olympic Plaza in 2013 for the annual calendar staple — the outdoor free Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performances.

The numbers behind the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's (VSO) free performances in Whistler are proving out the value of the municipality's $275,000 investment.

In its inaugural year, 2,650 people attended the VSO outdoor performances at Whistler Olympic Plaza. That generated 800 room nights in 2012.

Flash forward three years to 2014, and while the number of attendees has remained relatively flat — up just 60 people since 2012 — room nights have risen two and a half times to more than 2,000.

No doubt the calendar helped the VSO's case in 2014 — the performances fell between two long weekends — but Whistler does not believe that's the only reason for the growth in room nights. It's all about the hype, too.

"In 2014, the visitors who came to Whistler for the VSO were more likely to stay overnight and more likely to stay longer than in previous years," said James Buttenshaw, Tourism Whistler's director of planning and partnerships. "Last year's performances spanned both the Canadian and U.S. long weekends in July, which, combined with the effective marketing and the buzz created from the previous two years, helped drive success."

This is part of the rationale for further municipal investment in the VSO this year. The money to invest in the program flows from the provincial Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) funding — roughly $7 million transferred from Victoria to Whistler to grow tourism in the resort.

The VSO is part of the $1 million original programming budget in the bigger municipal Festivals, Events and Animation (FE&A) program, which totals $3.1 million this year.

Specifically, VSO is getting a $275,000 investment for tech, screens, programming and talent. That's down from the $320,000 provided last year.

The decrease is due to eliminating mid-week quintets and quartets and reduced costs for soloists and conductors.

When asked why it has eliminated the mid-week performances, the municipal communications department emailed: "To reduce the total cost of producing the VSO concerts and redirect funds to other FE&A initiatives."

Meanwhile, the municipality has invested a further $175,000 over three years into the VSO Orchestral Institute at Whistler, a summer course for young musicians. The 2015 project support is $50,000.

Applications for the program are due by March 12.

Ten early student submissions have been received.

"As this is our first year, we anticipate approximately 30 students," wrote the communications department via email.

"Submissions are not due for another few weeks, so it is expected that the majority of applications are yet to be received."

Applicants must be between the ages of 15 and 23 and must submit a video-recorded audition with the application.

Tuition is $1,250 for the summer program, which runs June 28 to July 5.

The VSO concerts will take place on July 1 to 3 this year.



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