Culture's the word 

Building a place-based cultural tourism destination must be heavy on the word, 'culture'

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It's obvious: you can't have cultural tourism without culture.

Place-based cultural tourism is the flag that Whistler is rallying behind as the future of business in this town but at the core of this strategy -when it's inevitably developed - is cultivating and nurturing a thriving local arts and culture scene.

Pique sat down with members of the Cultural Tourism Advisory Group (CTAG) at Franz Wilhelmsen Theatre at Millennium Place following its presentation to council on Tuesday, to discuss the finer details of the strategy, only to find that the finer points have not been finalized, or even really thought about yet. Tuesday's presentation was never meant to offer such details but was merely about requesting council to allow CTAG to remain "as custodians of the process currently," according to John Rae, manager of strategic partnerships for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

At this point, there is no one agency responsible for the strategy. It's so embryonic at this stage as to be almost as ephemeral as culture itself. The members of CTAG seem to agree however that place-based cultural tourism is about the broader community, pulling together a wide range of elements, from the film festival to the museum to the slow food cycle. It's not an easy thing to wrangle and this is not an easy project to undertake.

"It's important to realize that cultural tourism, especially place-based cultural tourism, is not a single entity," says community culture consultant Ann Popma. "It's a framework. It's a way of thinking about ourselves and there is no one agency that is responsible for place-based cultural tourism."

Doti Niedermayer, executive director of the Whistler Arts Council, says the discussion moving forward is figuring out how to nurture and grow the local arts and culture community. It already has the community here and has the events that bind it together. Travellers may not be coming for Crankworx but still expect, and rightfully so, that there's something happening every single day that they're here. Visitors spend a lot of money to visit Whistler and they should feel the hum of the local culture at all times.

"That has to grow from this place because you cannot afford, no community in the world can... a big top tent here 365 days a year," Niedermayer says. "You can have some spectacles along the way throughout the year but you have to have that constant hum that lives and breathes and works here."

For something like that to work, it has to dig down deep to the grassroots, to the creators of the local arts scene and the not-for-profits, which are the cornerstone of any local culture.

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