Whistler’s Village Stroll may be eerily quiet again as COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place, but it’s only a matter of time before the visitors return in droves.
An upcoming Speaker Series event hosted by the Whistler Institute (formerly known as the Whistler Learning Centre) will explore the risks and challenges that lie ahead when the visitors return.
The May 14 virtual event, titled Tourism: Building Back Better, will explore the topic of regenerative tourism, said Suki Cheyne, executive director of the Whistler Institute.
“The topic of regenerative tourism has been around for awhile now, and that concept is, ‘how do we leave the place that we have better than we found it?’” Cheyne said.
“Prior to the pandemic, Whistler was experiencing some of the impacts of overtourism, and the community had started to voice concerns. So there’s an opportunity during this time of looking ahead, and looking at what do we do better.”
The event will feature a panel discussion with Megan Epler Wood, director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative; Rodney Payne, CEO of DestinationThink!; and Barrett Fisher, president and CEO of Tourism Whistler. Mayor Jack Crompton will serve as session chair for the discussion.
“The idea is to look at some case studies and examples from other places in the world who’ve been doing a really good job with regenerative tourism, and then learning from those experiences,” Cheyne said.
“And then trying to look at what might work for Whistler, and that idea of looking ahead, and what can Whistler do differently in the future.”
The session is free to attend, and registration closes at 11:30 p.m. on May 12. A “book club” discussion with Epler Wood will follow the main event for those interested.
For more info and to register, go to whistlerinstitute.com/course/gp-tourism-bbb.
While the Whistler Institute was founded as the Whistler Learning Centre in 2012, the name change represents a new direction for the Sea to Sky based non-profit organization.
“The business plan [and] the activities of the organization have changed during that time, so we felt a name which better reflected the breadth and depth of the activities that we’re now performing was warranted, and the Whistler Institute really kind of captures what we’re doing and where we’re going in the future as well,” Cheyne said.
While the institute has always focused on developing partnerships with education institutions and instructors, “we’re also looking at developing programs as well,” Cheyne said, pointing to recent initiatives like the Indigenous and Intercultural Awareness course, a partnership with BCIT.
“We’re also looking at working with Vancouver Community College and BCIT to look at the need for culinary programs in the local area, and developing those, so we’re moving into program development [along with hosting the ongoing speaker series events],” she said.
“Our vision is much broader than it was previously, and the [Whistler Institute] name better reflects it.”