Are events the way to generate business in Whistler? 

In a winter that has disappointed many businesses, some people see events as a way to increase numbers and fill in "dead spots" during the season.

But Doug Perry, director of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, and some other event managers see lower prices and an events strategy as the key.

"Whistler does not need more event companies, rather Whistler needs a more effective overall event strategy," Perry said.

"Whistler needs a 365-day long-range master plan for developing impact events at specific times in the calendar as part of a resort-wide marketing plan.

"More event companies are not the solution. More events are not the solution. A small number of very effective events that deliver a measurable economic impact to Whistler would be more beneficial," said Perry.

The good news is there is a board which was created to make strategic alliances, promote events and fill the dead spots in the calendar year: the Whistler Events Bureau.

The WEB started in September 2001 and is a partnership between Whistler-Blackcomb, represented by Rob McSkimming, the municipality, represented by John Rae, and Tourism Whistler, represented by President Barrett Fisher.

According to Rae, WEB is focussed on driving up occupancy rates and developing international partnerships with firms such as IMG, which can bring television coverage to events in Whistler prior to the 2010 Olympics.

But some of the firms that currently produce events in Whistler would prefer the WEB was looking for "local" solutions.

Perry said the WEB had in no way helped with the organization of the WSSF and suggested the bureau was forging "a near exclusive relationship with US-based event giant IMG".

"The World Ski and Snowboard Festival is one of the few major events in Whistler that has no connection to the Whistler Events Bureau whatsoever," Perry said.

He argued that event companies did not always drive tourists to Whistler, but rather good event design and sound event marketing strategies is what attracts people to Whistler.

"Whistler needs to thoroughly analyze its events to see which ones are working and which ones are not," he said.

"The ones that make an economic contribution and are meaningful to the community should stay, the ones that don’t should be re-engineered or scrapped."

Rae said WEB exists to create events and form world-wide strategic alliances that will drive "incremental" occupancy rates.

"We want to make sure that the events here are based on a concept which will help with the image of how Whistler is perceived around the world," Rae said.

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