September 16, 2005 Features & Images » Feature Story

How can Whistler get its mojo back? 

There’s no magic bullet, but following Dr. Seuss’s advice may help

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Companies that develop a hedgehog concept focus on three things: what they can be the best in the world at, what they are deeply passionate about, and what drives their economic engine.

As Collins explains, "A hedgehog concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best. It is an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely crucial."

Luckily for Whistler, that distinction is abundantly clear. Tourism drives our economy and our mission is to be the best resort in the world. It’s simply assumed that the passion is innate, but maybe that passion needs to be reinvigorated.

The new realities of the tourism business

Crucial to Whistler’s economic recovery is the understanding that the rules of the game have changed. Tourism is a very different industry than it was five years ago; besides the fact the industry has been broadsided by wild currency fluctuations, international terrorism, freakish natural disasters and the threat of a global pandemic. The Internet has turned tourism and travel upside down, with pricing being driven down and expectations driven through the roof. Word of mouth marketing is no longer friends telling friends; it now travels globally instantly, offering every product, service, and experience a chance to be recognized in a flash. The Internet has levelled the playing field and turned every new brand into a potential global player.

Rempel understands the changing market. "What has changed is the context we are living in, and as a resort we need to adapt and respond to a hyper-competitive market. The resorts we stole market share from are gaining it back with aggressive marketing and deep discounts. We also have to understand that since September 2002, the price of a holiday here has increased 31 per cent just because of the exchange rate. We have to figure out how to adjust the product, price and service to remain competitive."

And while the rules have changed, the fundamentals of good business have not. One last quote from Wanamaker (this guy was prolific) sums up the part of the plan that delivers real returns: "A little more effort on the part of everybody to make the times better, and better times will surely come along."

That sentiment is shared by the new Chamber interim president as well when explaining what can be done to stimulate the resort economy.

"I think there are two things to look at.," said Lalor-Morton. "The business owners have been correct in challenging and looking at the bigger picture. Where are our guests coming from, where are we marketing, where are we having success, where have we shifted and what is the plan going forward? I think if they have been attending the Tourism Whistler value meetings over the summer they will have been pleased with what TW has been doing to date and where they are going.

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