Gibbons Hospitality Group to launch new brand 

Business plan will allow Gibbons to financially support resort events and activities

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD/DAVIDBUZZARD.COM - Branching out, branding up Joey Gibbons, the owner of five iconic Whistler pubs and clubs, is set to launch Gibbons Life, a new brand that aims to sell the Whistler way of life to the world.
  • Photo by David Buzzard/davidbuzzard.com
  • Branching out, branding up Joey Gibbons, the owner of five iconic Whistler pubs and clubs, is set to launch Gibbons Life, a new brand that aims to sell the Whistler way of life to the world.

Joey Gibbons is on the eve of launching one of the biggest business endeavours in his life, one with his name on the line. Literally.

It's called "Gibbons Life" — a creative concept that will see Gibbons step up with the ultimate goal of keeping Whistler, and his employees, sustainable in the long term and help shape the resort's future.

"This is an opportunity for us to be smarter at inviting the world to Whistler and doing our part, as opposed to sitting back and waiting for Tourism Whistler to invite all our guests, and Whistler Blackcomb to invite our guests," he said adding that he believes resort partners are doing a good job and he wants to help.

"We feel like we want to help be a part of that solution."

Part of that equation will be using 100 per cent of the net profits of the new business to support events — "things that we believe benefit this resort and bring the right people to town," said Gibbons.

Last week, for example, he put his money where his heart is and wrote a cheque for $50,000. The money saved the Big Air event during the upcoming World Ski and Snowboard Festival, which was on the verge of being dropped due to funding challenges.

His investment is like private RMI money, he joked, referring to Resort Municipality Initiative funding of $7 million annually, which the municipality divvies up for tourism-related projects at its discretion.

The Big Air is important to Whistler, said Gibbons, and that's why he supported it.

This is his plan for supporting more.

An online booking engine, Gibbons Life — much like whistler.com will be created, where people can book all facets of their Whistler vacation — hotels, skiing, parties.

That, however, is just the surface.

Just as Martha Stewart sells a lifestyle, not just cookbooks and decorative pillows, Gibbons intends to sell more than just ski packages and stagette weekends — he wants to share the Whistler way of life.

Ultimately, he intends to bottle it up and sell it around the world.

"We want to do business with people before they come to Whistler, while they're in Whistler and then once they get home," said Gibbons, explaining that part of the big-picture plan is to develop and sell a Gibbons' brew worldwide.

People may think he's crazy, he said, leaning back in his office chair in his ski pants as the Whistler Gondola turns just beyond his window.

At 37 years old he's at the helm of five Whistler iconic properties — the Longhorn Saloon & Grill, Buffalo Bills, Garfinkel's, The FireRock Lounge, and Tapley's Neighbourhood Pub. By any standards, he has taken what his father Dick Gibbons began and built its success.

But the massive white boards on his office wall, littered with bold notes detailing how he's going to share his experience with the world, are proof that the younger Gibbons is not riding his dad's coattails.

"For me, it's not about the money," he said. "It's about living the life I want to live so, it's easy."

He hopes Gibbons Life is going to be synonymous with the very essence of Whistler — its heart and its soul — by giving tourists a first-hand, unique, authentic Whistler experience during their momentary escape to the mountains through his company.

The website will customize a Whistler vacation for people — hotels that will suit them, restaurants right up their alley, nightclubs that they'll enjoy.

And once here, Gibbons Life will go one step further by connecting them to the culture percolating under the surface of Whistler, the kind of experience you only get when you have an inside scoop.

"When they go golfing they're giving Duncan and Alan and Ro a high five on their way off the course," explained Gibbons. "Or when they go to the Longhorn they're saying 'hi' to Ben. They're not just going to the Longhorn. We're going to introduce them to some of the personalities that go along with these businesses. It's something that we were built on — those André's and Pascal's and Mario's and KiKe's."

Gibbons tells a story to illustrate this point.

Two weeks ago he started talking to a visitor in the elevator, making small talk. He found out the skier was a distributor of spirits and craft beer in his native Sweden.

Gibbons is new to that business too, having recently invested in Deep Cove Brewery, which makes craft beer and vodka. He urged the guest to check out his beer at the FireRock during his stay.

At the end of the week two key members of Gibbons' team met the Swede and his friends at the FireRock and walked them through the beer sampling.

"He said at the end of the conversation exactly what we want Gibbons Life to be, he said: 'I've been to Whistler for these last 10 days, I've had awesome skiing, stayed in a great hotel, eaten in amazing restaurants. But it took until today for me to connect with the community, meeting you guys,'" explained Gibbons.

"I think that is something that our community is built on, and I think it's what's made us successful. I've described it in the past as being the soul of our community. Our community has a certain soul. So really, that's what we want Gibbons Life to do."

Gibbons knows that building a global brand is no mean feat. The brand, however, is already recognized within Whistler.

"Gibbons isn't me. Gibbons isn't my dad. Gibbons is our 350 people that we work with. That's just naturally how it's referred to 'I work for Gibbons.' It's just happened naturally."

Long-serving employee Katrina Frew will run Gibbons Life. She began, like so many others in his business, at minimum wage and worked her way up.

He doesn't see Gibbons Life as competition to existing booking engines.

The focus will be on the 25-55-year-old market with disposable income. Bucket-listers, who see Whistler as a must-do place to visit.

"I don't look at what we're doing as being competitive to the other sites that are in town," he said. "I feel like it's going to add incremental value by going really specifically at that market.

The big picture of Gibbons Life, however, is bigger than Whistler, bigger than booking vacations and creating memorable experiences.

For this he needs his beer.

Down the road, if they can find the right taste formula, something that they can stand behind, then Gibbons wants to create a beer brand, offering tourists a little taste of Whistler anywhere in the world.

"Our opportunity to become really successful in business, and do something really special and become a global company is the business that we do after people get home," he said.

"People go to the Longhorn and have this awesome day, and this terrific experience and you leave with the experience that's inside you. There's nothing that can relive it. The idea is that if people come in and have this amazing experience and have one of our Deep Cove beers, a Gibbons beer, then they go home to Australia, or Toronto, or wherever and they are able to see that experience on the shelf and consume it and it reminds them of Whistler.

"It would be a way to take a piece of our Gibbons Life and continue it on."

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