Council to consider Nita Lake Lodge and rail project 

Economic study indicates project will inject millions into local economy

A proposed passenger rail service between Whistler and Vancouver and a new 80-room lodge at Creekside will inject roughly $62 million into the local economy in its first year of operation, according to a report prepared for proponents of the project, the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation.

In the first five years of operation, the project is estimated to spin off almost half a billion dollars to the Whistler economy, with positive benefits to the provincial economy too.

The Nita Lake Lodge Corporation, which has partnered with Whistler Rail Tours, is presenting their multi-faceted, multi-million dollar project to council on Monday night.

"From a straight economics point of view it has major implications," said David Ehrhardt, a local developer who is a principal in the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation.

The deal would see an upscale lodge at the end of Lake Placid Road as well as a new train station at Creekside. A new, privately operated tourist train would deposit travellers at the station, who would then be ensconced in the lodge or shuttled to the village.

"The whole business plan, the whole opportunity for the tourist train between Vancouver and Whistler is predicated on there being a station," said Ehrhardt.

"If council in its wisdom chooses to proceed with the lodge and train station, what comes with that is a regularly service scheduled tourist train coming from Vancouver to Whistler."

If the figures in the economic report are anything to go by, Whistler Rail Tours is set to revitalize rail travel in the Sea to Sky corridor by tapping into a burgeoning market in the city – the cruise ship industry.

In the 10 years from 1991 to 2000, the number of cruise ship passengers going through Vancouver increased 171 per cent, from 388,258 visitors to just over 1 million. The industry is expected to grow at around four per cent each year now. That means 1.5 million cruise ship visitors will be going through Vancouver by 2010.

Whistler Rail Tours wants to zero in on this market.

In the economic report the company projects that it could ferry more than 150,000 cruise ship passengers to Whistler in the year 2010, after just five years in operation.

"These are people you’d never get there otherwise," said John Haibeck, president of the Nita Lake Lodge Corporation.

And it’s not just the cruise ship market they’re tackling.

Both the Whistler Conference Centre and the Vancouver Convention Centre have undertaken major renovations, designed to expand their services. Whistler Rail Tours plans to capitalize on the growing conference/convention market, as well as working with tour operators and travel agencies.

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