Local company to produce Cornucopia 

Tourism Whistler to outsource event production to Watermark

Tourism Whistler is handing over the production of its signature fall wine festival to local event production company Watermark Communications.

“It will be a big change,” admitted Arlene Schieven, Tourism Whistler’s vice president of marketing, of the decision to outsource Cornucopia.

“We certainly feel a bit of sadness in letting it go but we feel with having Watermark involved we’ll still be very closely in contact with them and working on it together.”

Officially two years old this year, Watermark is better known for its production of the hugely successful World Ski and Snowboard Festival in the spring.

Reached in Las Vegas this week during the Sports Industry Association tradeshow, Watermark president Sue Eckersley said she was very excited to tackle the new challenge.

She recognizes that perhaps there was some concern Watermark would morph Cornucopia into a World Ski and Snowboard Festival for the fall, but nothing could be further from the truth. It will remain a high-end food and wine festival.

“People can be rest assured that we’re going to keep sailing the ship in the same direction,” she said.

“It’s a very successful event already. What we really want to do is we just basically want to build it bigger.”

There will be a few new touches that the new producers would like to add, such as incorporating more sustainability initiatives, including more Slow Food elements, and making the festival more accessible to the novice wine drinker.

And she looks forward to growing the partnership with Tourism Whistler.

The move to outsource the event is consistent with a new direction undertaken by Tourism Whistler as part of a resort-wide Event Tourism Strategy developed by the major resort partners, including the resort municipality and Whistler-Blackcomb.

Part of that strategy involves not only outsourcing event production to third parties but also actively soliciting events and identifying event marketing opportunities with resort partners.

And while the three partners had established Events Whistler to execute those, Events Whistler no longer has a formal structure.

“It exists in the moment… but it does not exist in terms of a separate organization,” said Schieven. “It’s like a committee.”

When asked why Events Whistler did not succeed as originally proposed, Schieven compared it to an organization like Tourism Whistler executing events.

“It’s similar to having a one- or two-person event department within Tourism Whistler and trying to produce events without having a lot of resources, and to try and develop a standalone organization without a lot of resources was difficult,” she said. “I think there’s a number of learnings that we took away from that.”

Now Tourism Whistler will act more as a facilitator for Whistler’s event industry.

While the organization will continue to own Cornucopia, Schieven said she is confident Watermark is up for the challenge.

“I think that people will see change (this year) but I don’t think they’ll see it’s being produced by different people,” she said.

“I think there will be a lot of continuity… Watermark is very cognizant of not changing the successful model but at the same time bringing some new ideas and that’s exactly what we’re looking for.”

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