Events Whistler rethinks its approach 

Concept remains the same, but will go forward without general manager

By Andrew Mitchell

After a busy winter season the principal members of Events Whistler at last met to discuss the future of the organization after the announcement in February that the contract for general manager Greg Albrecht would not be renewed.

Events Whistler, a joint effort of Whistler-Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler, and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, hired Albrecht in April 2006 to represent the resort in negotiations with third-party event organizers and sponsors with the purpose of adding new events and facilitating the growth of existing events. He was also hired to help streamline the application and permit process for event organizers.

Last week John Rae from the RMOW, Arlene Schieven from TW, and Rob McSkimming from Whistler-Blackcomb met to discuss the future of Events Whistler and decided that the group would proceed without a general manager.

“The long and short of it is that Events Whistler is alive and well, which is to say the board will remain intact… And we will still be the organization that third-party event producers can knock on our door to talk about the opportunity of developing and hosting events in Whistler,” said Rae.

“We will also look at opportunities outside of the resort to import some potentially very attractive propositions.

“What we will not do is fund a general manager. But while I’m saying that we have also hired a consultant that was working with Tourism Whistler to identify what the opportunities are and what the model should be for an event management team in Whistler.”

Rae says there was some confusion in the past that Events Whistler was a funding body, with a mandate to host and run events in Whistler. In fact, the only event that is owned and operated jointly by Events Whistler, although completely funded by outside sponsors, is the Crankworx freeride mountain bike festival.

“We’re an organization to assist third party event producers with the development and execution of an event,” said Rae. “There are three ways where we might help out. We can assist administratively, which means we can help people understand and navigate all the permits and things and in the relationships that need to be established. We can also potentially assist them promotionally through various promotional vehicles we already have under our jurisdiction, like Whistler.com and Whistlerblackcomb.com. Thirdly, we might assist operationally… like providing sponsor activation locations, or areas to load in or load out.”

One example of an event that Event Whistler is in negotiations to bring to Whistler is the World Police and Fire Games, potentially in 2009. The event has its own planners and sponsors, but Events Whistler would help out with permits, venues and promotion.

“When it comes down to it, what we really admire is the Glenn Iles model for Whistler Wellness Week, or Shauna Hardy with the Whistler Film Festival. They are all self-sufficient to a point, and what we can do is look for ways to promote and support these kinds of events with what our organizations have to offer.”

Events Whistler will continue to be a major economic driver for the resort, Rae adds, and all members of Events Whistler are committed to bringing new events to the resort community while growing existing attractions. At the same time, he says, the members of Events Whistler will only help events that accomplish the goal of bringing visitors to the resort.

“We have a good talent pool within the resort and there are some great concepts we expect to see emerge,” he said. “But that said, we’re not in a position of assuming risk on behalf of the community, or Tourism Whistler members.

“(For new events) we want to make sure we can put our hand on our heart and say there are benefits to the community at large and whatever level of support we give — whether it’s administrative, promotional or operational — the returns to the community are clear and well defined. This will be about room nights and general resort visits.”

The Events Whistler board currently meets monthly to discuss ongoing events and opportunities.

The board is also considering whether it should grow to include representatives from other organizations within the community, such as the Whistler Arts Council and Chamber of Commerce.

“We see (Events Whistler) as evolving,” said Rae. “This is a community that understands the value of events and as key stakeholders we want to provide the opportunity to develop and nurture events here in the community.”

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