Letters to the Editor 

Whistler.com defends, wetland destruction decried, tennis thanks, and how to be a good host

Work with us as we grow

In reply to Sharon Audley’s letter of May 18th "Why don’t we inspire guests?" I respectfully offer the following comments for consideration.

Whistler.com was designed and built to sell Whistler, and despite a few challenging years, has been successful in doing so. Total sales for this year have increased by $1 million over the previous year, fuelled by an increase in the number of calls taken and higher sales conversion of those calls by our agents. Earlier this year, Tourism Whistler purchased the remaining 49 per cent of whistler.com, making this site a true community asset, owned and operated by locals for the benefit of our guests. Having now spent the last two months with the team, I can tell you that I have been impressed with the level of expertise in the organization and with their sincere desire to be best in class in the call centre and with the website. They work hard each day to introduce Whistler to our visitors and ensure that they have the best possible vacation.

There is a great deal of daily focus on the site supported by sophisticated analytics to determine what draws people in, how they move around the site and the conversion to booking success. Our web designers and marketing team make daily changes to the site based on the stats and client feedback. The one thing I quickly learned is that is doesn’t matter what my opinion of the site optics is; visitors vote with their clicks. The whistler.com site has an extremely low abandon rate of 26 per cent and a respectable conversion rate in the industry, suggesting that we are doing something right. I am not suggesting it is perfect. We recognize that the site needs constant tweaking and changing and will continue to do so. In the months to come the combined web teams of Tourism Whistler and whistler.com will be working on a site which is a hybrid of the two – focusing on both the need to provide information and sell the resort. But make no mistake about it, whistler.com is the sales engine for the majority of accommodation and activity providers in the area and our focus will continue to be on increasing sales into the resort. They expect nothing less.

The top of the site does indeed have a one inch header with our logo and 800 number prominently displayed with the background being grass, depicting the summer season. However, below this and occupying the majority of the top space are rotating scenes of Whistler with beautiful shots of the local lakes, golf courses, river rafting adventures, zip trek scenes, train adventures, and spa experiences. All of these shots are designed to support the local businesses and showcase the variety of options available and have seen good click through numbers.

Ms. Audley’s suggestion of including activities which cost visitors nothing but time is a good one and one we will incorporate into the village info section of the site. The call centre agents (a committed group of locals who I feel fortunate to be working with) are fully aware of all of the activities available and often recommend the non-paid options to our callers. We receive many e-mails and calls from guests who have been "inspired to come here" by locals dedicated to making Whistler a success. I would ask the community to give this team the respect they deserve and invite you to work with us as we continue to grow and evolve.

Diana Lyons

GM, Whistler.com

Thank you Whistler.com

I would like to acknowledge the team at whistler.com for having one of the most attractive and compelling websites in Whistler. The team at whistler.com has shown creativity and taken action in the face of many challenges. They initiated a "Mondays Free" campaign this winter that drove the mid-week market and successfully aligned Whistler on this value offer.  Whistler.com is now owned and operated by the community of Whistler and their mandate and scope are changing as a result. I encourage the team at Whistler.com to continue to harness their creatively and passion for Whistler in order to meet and exceed the needs and expectations of our guests. Thank you for all that you do for Whistler.

Trevor Chelswick

Whistler

The destruction has begun

In spite of council's (well appreciated) decision to turn down the latest zoning application from Silverthorne Developments, in the past week I have seen (and had conversations with) surveyors hired by B.C. Rail working on the land in question behind Meadow Lane Townhomes. It appears that the powers that be have decided that this wetland ecosystem is of no value to anyone except the developers, and that it will be destroyed. In fact, as of May 18, it has been destroyed.

I find it very difficult to understand how – and why – this is happening. And yes, I understand that, as a property owner, it is my choice to determine what I plant and what I trash, and who I sell my land to. But if the developer feels that, by trashing this vibrant wildlife corridor, successive attempts at rezoning will be easier, maybe it is time to nip this destruction in the bud. I am assuming that this is the developers' motivation, as opposed to a knee-jerk, spiteful response from a development company that has had their plans frustrated for the third time in the last five years. If the latter, looks to me like they are thumbing their nose at the village council and the residents of Pemberton, which won't make them any more popular.

My concerns are the following:

1. The land in question is a floodplain. It has flooded in the past, and it will flood again. The environmental impact of developing this land, in terms of the following concerns, has not been adequately addressed.

2. The drainage through this area supplies water to the Arn Canal. Any development in this area could affect the viability of the salmon habitat, especially that of young salmon fry.

3. The surface water in this area seeps into the ground and recharges Pemberton's groundwater system, the source for Pemberton's single well. Again, what will the environmental impact be on our drinking water if this land is developed?

4. The biodiversity in this area is greater than in many other areas of Pemberton. Where are the multitude of species that inhabit this wildlife corridor going to go? To name just a few that I've observed or heard in the past week: frogs, bats, a mother bear and her two cubs, an  adolescent bear, at least 11 species of wood warblers, a western tanager, and evening grosbeaks. For example, on May 16 the adolescent bear was scared out of his day bed by the surveyors and ran through Meadow Lane Townhomes at about 1:30 p.m. in 30-degree heat.

This is not Brazil or some other third-world country, where money is might. It is Canada, and this is not what I would expect to happen in Canada. My 28 years with Environment Canada have sensitized me to the vast destruction of wetlands in our country, and taught me the value of leaving this type of habitat alone. If you have any conscience or influence, I would appreciate it if you would have a discussion with Silverthorne Development/BC Rail and raise my concerns. If not, it would appear that my Valley Vision is not your Valley Vision.

Peter Brooksbank

Pemberton

Where’s the logic?

Earlier this month a huge number of Pemberton citizens and the majority of council decided that with the current housing market there was no need at this time to develop land within the village and voted NO in a democratic process to rezone a B.C. Rail property.

This area has become a rich ecosystem that housed an overwhelming number of species, including birds, frogs and bears. On Thursday, May 18, the neighborhood watched in horror as excavators tore down trees during nesting season and flattened the property. My 4-year-old son reacted as if he was kicked in the stomach; he has yet to fully grasp the cruel intentions behind this devastation.

Ironically the excavators were labeled with Terrane Development logos. The owner of this company is the same guy who boasted that the Silverthorne project was "smart growth." It has now been proven that it's not about being "smart" at all but more about dollar signs. I hope this puts a big black X on the developer’s credibility.

I then learned of a meeting between the developers in question and B.C. Rail at a golf course just prior to the destruction.

When I contacted the director of B.C. Rail Properties he seemed totally unaware of the real wildlife value of the land. He mentioned a mandate to sell this land, yet in the past four years I have not seen one for sale sign on that property, nor have I heard of their pressing intention to sell it. There isn't even any evidence of this property on their website.

So without logic and with a whole lot of vengeance, spite and malicious intent the land was destroyed anyway. This just reminds me of a spoiled child's attitude: "If I can't have it, no one can."

With stunts like this more people are going to want to move out of Pemberton instead of into it.

Launa Johnson

Pemberton

Junior tennis is alive in Whistler!

As parents of a junior tennis player we would like to thank Marjorie Blackwood, Peter Shelling, and Kirk Patterson, for creating the Whistler Junior Tennis Academy. The group, enthusiastically led by Kirk Patterson, participated in their first tournament in Abbotsford on May13, 2006. We were very impressed by the level of skill and sportsmanship that our Whistler Team displayed. Our small group took top places in all three categories; with a 1st place in the 14 year old and under, 2nd place in the 12 year old and under and 2nd place in the 10 the year old and under.

This is a clear indication of the high level of instruction and dedication from the fine instructors of the Whistler Racquet Club. It is a little known fact that Marjorie Blackwood is in the Tennis Hall of Fame and her husband Peter Shelling has competed at the highest levels in tennis.

It is quite remarkable how, with no funding or marketing, the Tennis Camps held at The Whistler Racquet Club are sold out every year months in advance.

We would also like to thank the committed members of the tennis club for holding a fundraising event that made this junior program possible. They raised several thousands dollars from the members at an auction. George and Rose Koenig donated a Spyder ski jacket and everyone who attended came with the thought of giving more than they were getting.

Finally we would like thank Bill Kunzweiler, John Konig, Garry Watson and the other members of the tennis committee for their time and dedication to the sport of tennis in Whistler and their tireless efforts in the ongoing discussions with the Holborn Group. We look forward with great anticipation to the construction, by the Holborn Group, of our new racquet facility.

Stuart & Carol Munro

Jamie Grant, and JP Vaillancourt

Whistler

Hosts making a difference

There has been a number of letters in the past few weeks concerning the treatment of guests in Whistler, most of which has been pretty negative. I would like to bring to the attention of your readers that a program exists here in Whistler whose only focus is on greeting and helping guests – it’s the Village Host Program.

Some of you may have seen us out there this winter (or past two summers) walking the Village Stroll helping guests, and the occasional local. This past winter the Village Host Team gave help, directions, listened to concerns etc to over 18,000 visitors. This number does not include the number of people that we just chatted to.

I suppose what I would like to say is, those of you who are concerned about the treatment of our guests instead of writing about it, stop by Millennium Place and talk to Cathie about doing something about it and volunteer. Just think about how many people we could talk to if there were more volunteers.

JoAnne Amos

Village Host Volunteer

Whistler

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