Grills appointed to tourism economy portfolio 

Feature excerpt: The RMOW Files

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When he was first elected in 2011, Coun. John Grills was part of a council tasked with revitalizing Whistler's economy.

The results of that effort—record visitation and the virtual elimination of shoulder seasons—have been well documented.

"I think our timing was really good ... We got blessed with some good weather conditions, and the key people knocked on our door—Ironman and Michael Audain—and a number of things like that really changed the atmosphere in the community," Grills says.

"I think when the community saw that council working and rolling up their sleeves, working with the staff, and getting things done ... there was confidence back in the community."

The third-term councillor is now tasked with keeping the momentum going through the Tourism Economy portfolio.

To do so, he'll rely on existing relationships such as the Economic Partnership Initiative and partnerships like those with Tourism Whistler.

"Tourism Whistler has always adjusted when there's been changes to our visitation numbers, and when they see changes in certain international markets, they try and figure out why, and if it looks like it's not a good investment going down the road, they put their money somewhere else. We're seeing that today, and we've seen that for decades," Grills says.

"And I think that's always been recognized as a really key tool that Whistler has compared to other resorts like ourselves."

While some bemoan the busier state of Whistler these days, Grills, a former restaurant owner, wants to see current business levels maintained.

"My background is as an entrepreneur. I know what it's like to have large disruptions to your business twice a year in spring and fall, and it's havoc, it's expensive," Grills says, noting that with all the discussion around affordability, employers being able to provide a regular paycheque to their workers is a positive.

"I think that's something that our businesses deliver now, because we've got quite a steady volume through the year. Certainly, there's still fluctuations, but the short seasons are a lot shorter than they used to be.

"I think we just maintain it at this level and then work from there. I don't like really going backwards on stuff."

While anecdotally, there have been rumblings of an expected economic downturn for months, Grills says he isn't worried yet.

"I think we've got a good base here. I think we'll have to do some adjustments to some of our marketing and some of our pricing, possibly, to make sure that we stay at this level, but the most important thing is that we sit down on a regular basis and monitor it," he says.

"The goal always for any councillor or mayor is that you want to leave the community in a better place than when you start. I've been able to do that for two terms. I certainly would like to do that for the third term.

"If there are some bumps along the way, we'll just do whatever we can to minimize them, and react to them."

Grills can be reached at 604-935-8230 or

Read the full-length feature 'The RMOW Files' here.


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