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Here’s how Whistler will spend its tourism dollars in 2024

Tracking RMI and MRDT in the 2024 budget—from disc golf to park improvements
Whistler's Meadow Park is set for an overhaul in 2024.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) will benefit from almost $14 million in funds generated from tourism and hotel stays during the 2024 budget year, according to the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) 2024 budget documents.

The money flows from the Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT), also known as the “hotel tax,” which returns to local governments a portion of funds generated from overnight stays, and the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI), a provincial revenue stream also pulled from hotel stays, and vended out to the province’s 14 resort municipalities.

Most of the funding raised through the MRDT in Whistler is kept in provincial coffers, and does not come back to the area, while the RMI allocation is determined by a community’s needs and average MRDT revenues year-on-year.

The RMOW is estimating it will receive $7.8 million in MRDT funds and $6.01 million in RMI funds in 2024. So where will it be spent?

As stipulated by the province, with few exceptions, the funds from both streams have to go to services or infrastructure that will “directly enhance tourism and the tourism experience,” so for Whistler, there’s a lot of options.

Under the RMOW’s 2024 proposed project list, the MRDT funding stream has nine projects on the docket totalling $924,500—significantly below the projected $7.8 million coming in, but we’ll get back to that.

In the grand scheme of the RMOW’s entire 121-long project list, the MRDT projects are all relatively small, ranging from $22,000 for a project called “Cultural Initiatives,” which will sow the seeds for an eventual Heritage Society, to $200,000 for general improvements across the RMOW’s parks and open spaces.

Like said park operation expenses, much of the projects the RMOW spends the MRDT funds on are community-facing.

One such item is the development of a Parks and Valley Trail Strategy, a Big Moves-related project to review Whistler’s existing parks and Valley Trail network “in the context of aging park infrastructure, existing park capacity, smart tourism, climate change, active transportation, utilization levels and trends in park use.” The project, which boasts a rather large scope, has a relatively pithy $35,000 allocated.

Meanwhile, there’s also a Disc Golf Feasibility Study ($153,000), to develop a master plan for the rejuvenation and possible expansion of the Lost Lake Disc Golf Course, “as well as identify and provide a schematic master plan for a possible future second course in Whistler.” According to the RMOW, this funding is in response to “safety, overuse, trespass, rogue activities and environmental concerns” at the existing course.

As mentioned, the entire MRDT-sourced project list adds up to only $924,500 being drawn from the MRDT reserves for 2024 for those projects, but most expenses are operational and not project-based—according to a communications official from the RMOW, there’s another $4.85 million being spent on tourism-facing operational expenses.

Meanwhile, more than $2 million raised through MRDT is going towards the municipality’s affordable housing focus, with the Whistler 2020 Development Corp getting $550,000, and $1.5 million going to the Employee Housing Reserve.

Over in the RMI allocation, the RMOW anticipates it will get $6.01 million, and its list of 11 RMI projects adds up to $5.27 million. The difference (though the $6.01 million is an estimate and not a definitive number) is also made up of operational expenses and contributions to projects through the year.

Looking at the 11 projects listed, the stand-out, hefty expense is the Meadow Park rejuvenation project, which comes in at $3.25 million—or more than 61 per cent of the total allocated at this time.

“This RMI-funded project will replace the existing water spray park and playground at Meadow Park, both of which have reached the end of their useful lifespan,” reads the project description.

“Construction of these elements is anticipated to commence in 2024 and be complete for the summer of 2025.”

The project also includes the replacement of Meadow Park’s irrigation system and the transformation of a ball diamond into a “shared ball and dog off-leash area.”

Among the other projects, much of it is signage and wayfinding, with $62,284 allocated to the refurbishment of the wildly varying 134 interpretive panels on RMOW property in a cohesive and consistent manner, while another $27,191 is allocated to updating existing recreational trail maps as they exist in hard copy, online, and GPS-enabled apps.

The smallest allocation under RMI funding is $4,000 for parks accessibility, described as an ongoing expense to enact “minor accessibility upgrades” across the RMOW’s parks, with the scope of work to be coordinated by the Whistler Accessibility and Inclusion Committee.

A bigger-ticket item—the ongoing Rainbow Park rejuvenation project—is set to be completed in 2024, with a final infusion of $866,061. The funds also cover safety improvements at the nearby railway crossing.